Sanctity Of Life And Utilitarianism Term Paper

Length: 2 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Death and Dying  (general) Type: Term Paper Paper: #58832636 Related Topics: End Of Life, Calculus, Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia

Excerpt from Term Paper :



The Singer debate 'are there some lives not worth living:'

The sanctity of life and utilitarianism

Professor Peter Singer is a well-known utilitarian who advocates the right of parents to commit infanticide based upon utilitarian premises: he argues that the resources expended by keeping such children alive are too great and it would make more sense to allow families to adopt instead healthy children with a greater chance at happiness. Disability activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, who says that she would not be alive if this type of calculus had been employed notes: "But like the protagonist in a classical drama, Singer has his flaw. It is his unexamined assumption that disabled people are inherently 'worse off,' that we 'suffer,' that we have lesser 'prospects of a happy life'" (Johnson 2003: 12). However, Johnson also argues against assisted suicide entirely, even with the consent of the person who feels that his or her life is no longer worth living. She argues instead for a society where care...


The problem with infanticide, Rachels would likely counter, is that the infant has no ability to consent as to whether his or her life is meaningful at life's beginning. This is very different at the end of life, or after a time of profound suffering. Rachels admits that a strictly utilitarian argument along the lines of Singer can lead one to untenable premises, such as the notion that someone who was miserable would be better off dead. However, a possible response to this objection would be that psychological misery is a transient state while a terminal illness cannot, by definition, be alleviated. The objective of utilitarianism is not the erasure of all pain but the spirit of utilitarianism does call upon us to ask the question: if someone is dying from a terminal illness and wishes to die, is societal happiness promoted by forcing him or her to use heroic measures? Signer would no doubt add that resources are finite and could be better used to prolong the lives of those who actually wished to live.

Ultimately, the question 'are…

Sources Used in Documents:


Doerflinger, J. (1989). Assisted suicide: Pro-choice or anti-life?

Johnson, H. (2003). Unspeakable conversations. The New York Times.

Rachels, J. (1986). The morality of euthanasia.

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