Medical Ethics
Michael Green
Manuel Vargas
phone, office information

24 April. Passive and active euthanasia
29 April. Are intentions relevant to the moral assessment of actions?
4 May. Can it be worse to have more choices?
6 May. Would it be unfair if the poor used PAS more?

Medical Ethics: 27 April. Intended vs. extraordinary means

We covered most of these points today. I think we were a little short on the last one, however.

Here are two objections to Sullivan's attacks on Rachels.

1. Ceasing treatment in the cancer case isn't really a satisfactory alternative: the patient still has to suffer a tremendous amount of pain. Permitting active euthanasia/killing a patient would relieve this suffering. Why not do so, Rachels will ask?

Of course, the availability of palliative care will help many patients; Sullivan would insist that we use pain killers as far as possible.

But if there were a real case of conflict, if we couldn't alleviate the pain without killing the patient, we shouldn't alleviate the pain, according to Sullivan.

2. Is ending treatment in the cancer case really different from giving the patient a fatal dose of morphine, as far as the doctor's intentions are concerned?

In both cases, the doctors are concerned with alleviating the patient's suffering. In both cases, the doctors know that what they do will hasten the patient's death. Couldn't Rachels say that all that is going on here is that there are different means to achieve the same end: alleviating pain?

If that's right and if the patient's death is the only way to alleviate the pain and the patient would really prefer death over continued life, why not directly cause it?

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