Examining the Responses of Two Ethical Theories to Assisted Suicide
It is currently illegal in Canada to aid or counsel a person to commit suicide. Should the law be changed to allow for assisted suicide of people who are terminally ill and suffering from severe pain that cannot be managed? A case must be made that this form of assisted suicide is in fact ethical. This paper will examine the ethical positions of two theories, Act Utilitarianism and Kant’s theory of Deontology, in regard to this particular type of assisted suicide.
Act Utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of an action, where an action will be deemed right or wrong after analysing the end result. The right action is the one which brings forth the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people. Act Utilitarianism also looks at every person affected by a specific action, without discrimination, as each individual is weighed equally when considering the rightness or wrongness of an action (Waluchow 53). With the issue of assisted suicide, Act Utilitarianism would then look at all people affected, including the patient, the assister, those close to the patient, and the public’s health system. Act Utilitarianism would argue changing the law regarding assisted suicide if it can be shown that the greater balance of pleasure over displeasure would occur with this action.
In Kant’s Deontology theory, morality is not consequential, so actions are based on the intention of the person and not on the consequences that derive from the behaviour. It is the intent of an action, and not its effect, that determines if the act is ethical. Kant believed the basis of morality was reason and reason is guided by the Categorical Imperative which has us test our actions (Waluchow 174). Our
choosing of an action must live up to a universal duty, wherein a person uses reason to act, and must acknowledge that every other person in that situation would act on that reason as...