Active and Passive Euthanasia

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In the light of Terri Schiavo's upcoming judicially-imposed starvation, I wanted to record some of my thoughts on euthanasia and related issues. Before looking at the issues, it's important first to get some terminology out of the way. Euthanasia (from the Greek for good death) can be either active or passive, voluntary or involuntary. Active euthanasia is usually defined in terms of whether the person doing the killing actively does something to initiate the death, whereas passive euthanasia involves no such action but merely allowing someone to die. Euthanasia is voluntary when the person being killed has consented to being killed, and involuntary euthanasia is against such consent. Some people will classify cases with no consent either way as non-voluntary (but not involuntary).

Putting your pet to sleep is non-voluntary, active euthanasia. Not taking your friend to the hospital because he requests not to be helped is voluntary, passive euthanasia. Killing everyone over 60 because they're too old for your tastes would be involuntary, active euthanasia (at least for most of the people killed). Watching someone drown to death who is calling for your help would be involuntary and passive. Killing a child born with Down's Syndrome is non-voluntary but active. Simply refusing to operate on such a child who has an easily operable intestinal blockage is passive, non-voluntary euthanasia.

The only cases that are legal in this country are the ones the medical community recognizes as voluntary and passive or non-voluntary (but with a legal guardian's consent) and passive. Voluntary, active assisted suicide is allowed in some states, but only a few have made that legal at this point. I'm not sure which those are, but I believe Oregon was the first to do so. There may be only one or two others.

The standard view is that active euthanasia is always wrong, but passive euthanasia is ok in cases when the person consents or when the legal guardians consent when the victim beneficiary is someone unable to consent, e.g. the mentally retarded child whose parents decide that sort of mental disability is enough to make the child's life not worth living and therefore refuse to allow a simple operation. That such cases are allowed is important to the argument first popularized by the late philosopher James Rachels that the distinction between active and passive euthanasia doesn't hold up, and therefore since we allow passive euthanasia we're committed to allowing active.

I have three things to say about this argument. One is that Rachels is right in his main point. There is no moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia. Suppose you intend to kill someone and go through all the preparations to drown the person while swimming in a known location. Then you arrive to do the deed, and the victim is simply drowning to death already. You could save him, but why would you? You were going to kill him anyway. Does the fact that you didn't actively kill him make what happened less bad than if you had done the drowning? I say yes. Does it mean you're not at fault? Hardly. Passively allowing someone to die when you can do something about it is still wrong.

Of course, this isn't what Rachels wants. He wants to say that euthanasia isn't wrong in both cases. He thinks it's ok in both cases. The difference with euthanasia is the motivation. In my murder case, you would have had some evil intent. In euthanasia cases, you simply want to put someone out of their misery, and what can be more innocent than wanting your loved ones free from suffering? So Rachels argues that in cases with the same motivation, regardless of whether you physically move to do the deed, the moral issues have more to do with why you're doing it and with the final effect, which is of course death in both cases, than with how it's arrived at. If it's ok to refuse to operate on the retarded child, if the only reason is so the child will die, then why is it not ok to inject the child with a lethal poison that will allow a more painless death? I don't see the difference, morally speaking. I don't think it leads to the conclusion he takes it to, though, because he's assuming it's ok to kill Down's syndrome babies by not operating on their intestinal blockages, and I think that's morally horrendous.

The second point I want to make about Rachels' argument is that the difference between active and passive euthanasia is unhelpful to begin with when applied to the kinds of cases that are usually referred to as passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia, as commonly defined, is somewhat rare. It involves failing to treat someone medically or failing to engage in some other, non-medical lifesaving technique. This happens when members of the Watchtower Society refuse blood transfusions or when the followers of Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy refuse any medical treatment whatsoever. It doesn't happen when you flip a switch, pull a plug from an outlet, or remove a feeding tube. What's being proposed for Terri Schiavo is in fact active euthanasia, regardless of what anyone wants to call it. I've just explained why the distinction between active and passive euthanasia doesn't do the work it's supposed to do. Still, those who want to pretend that it does need to recognize that most of the cases they're calling passive so as to make them legal are simply not passive.

Third, there is a moral distinction that can enter into euthanasia cases, but it's not the active-passive distinction. That distinction is found, of all places, in the A.M.A. statement that supporters of the active-passive distinction use as the basis of their view. The A.M.A. statement says nothing of active or passive killing, however. It simply says that euthanasia is presumed to be wrong except in cases where extreme measures would be required to save someone's life. This is because other moral principles might conflict with saving the person's life in these cases.

Such extreme measures might be something like initiating very expensive procedures to prolong someone's life. Some people think the expense of prolonging someone's life isn't always going to be worth it. If it took half the GNP of the U.S. to save someone, I think that would be a bit much. The act of saving the person would require causing harm to a great many others. Also, no one is justified in taking a heart out of a living person to save another's life. That's just wrong, and saving someone's life isn't an absolute requirement even if the action required to do so would otherwise be immoral. There may also be issues with religious beliefs, which explains why it could be ok to refuse treatment at the request of the patient. It may well be wrong to violate someone's religious beliefs even if that means the person dies.

I don't have a real problem with such cases of passive euthanasia. That's because some other moral principle interferes with a prima facie principle to save people's lives. That principle is true only if all other things are equal, and when other moral principles apply other things are not equal. There are many cases that don't seem so obviously ok that also don't seem to me to be absolutely clearly wrong. Maybe there are cases that are in some ways like Terri Schiavo's that are ok. I'm not prepared to take a view on that at this point. I do think there are a few features of her case that make it clearly wrong.

One is that it's at best non-voluntary. She didn't give her consent. There's no document demonstrating her consent, and the people who know her well offer conflicting testimony on whether she wanted to live under such conditions. Her parents and siblings say she would have wanted to be kept alive in such a state. Her husband says she wouldn't have. Which do you believe?

Now I'm not prepared to defend a view on this question for most cases like this. Her case has one feature that makes it clear to me. Her husband seems not to have her best interests in mind. He has been living with another woman for something like fifteen years. He has kids with this other woman. He can't divorce his wife without losing his life insurance policy on her. He can't collect that unless she dies. He can't therefore marry the woman he's living with whose kids he's fathered unless his wife dies without thereby forfeiting his life insurance money that he'd gain from Terri's death. If that's not enough to generate a real legal reason not to allow him to manage her affairs, he's even exhibited some further suspicious behavior, but you can read further on that on your own.

At the same time, there are some indications that she's not really even in the vegetative state that doctors claim she's in. I've seen some of the videos, and what she does seems more to me than what someone with no consciousness at all could do. She distinguishes between her parents and other people. That doesn't seem purely involuntary. She seems responsive to certain statements and not others, with some regularity. It's also not as if everyone diagnosed as being in a vegetative state has no hope of ever regaining consciousness, because we have someone this week who began communicating after having received such a diagnosis. The best attitude, I think, is one of caution against assuming that she's in such a state, and I don't think that would be enough to justify treating her as a non-person anyway, but that issue would take a post of its own (at the very least).

As for the issue of moral principles interfering, I just can't see it here. It's not as if her being on the feeding tube violates someone else's rights or costs some huge expense that would threaten the livelihood of lots of people. So I just can't see the one distinction that enters in here as relevant to her case. So what do I think is going on here? Michael Schiavo wants his wife killed, and the United States' judicial and medical system is shamefully going along with it. That's at least the moral equivalent of murder, even if it's not going to turn out to be legally murder.

Update: For more on Terri Schiavo and the background issues, see this roundup at Wittenberg Gate.

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26 Comments

Oooof. This is a tough one. (Not the Schiavo case, but the topic of Euthanasia in general.)

Pretty much every day, I don't send money to relief organizations. Such money would enable those organizations to save the lives of people whom they cannot now save.

As far as I can tell, there isn't a substantial ethical difference between my not sending money to relief organizations and my not helping someone who is drowning. Both are cases of "Passively allowing someone to die when you can do something about it" which you say is (always?) wrong.

However, I know few people who would claim that my failure to give is categorically wrong, and similarly, few would claim that I would be right to refuse to help a drowning man.

Any ideas on how to make this consistent?

If you're near a body of water and see someone drowning but you decide it would be too dangerous to try to save them, that might be considered 'passive euthenasia', but it might just as well be laziness or perhaps even good judgement (after all, there would be no guarantee of success, and some real risk that you and the original victim might both be killed).

On the other hand, if you set up a roadblock to prevent rescue professionals from reaching the victim, that would not be 'passive euthenasia'. That would be active killing. That is the situation in the Schiavo case. Michael not only doesn't want to care for Terri himself--he wants to ensure nobody else can either.

Supercat, the difference between the cases you're talking about is right back to the motivation issue, which I've made a big deal of already.

Wink, there seem to be factors when it comes to obligation to save lives that don't enter in with every case. One reason it would be wrong to save every life I can no matter the costs is because it would mean I'd fail in my obligations to my family. But is it wrong not to try to do what I can even if my family has a be less well off because of it? The standard response is that other moral considerations still conflict, and they might seem selfish if you think of them in one way, but it would be a much worse society if we didn't seek enjoyment of things our hobbies and free time and money are used to pursue. I'm not sure if that satisfies you, but that's what most people seem to say in response to that argument.

I've addressed some of these questions in more detail here.

The simple rule that I use for myself is, "How can I best live a meaningful life?"

So, there is meaning is volunteering for hazardous duty in a worthy cause, there is meaning in stating a simple truth, there is meaning in listening, etc.

There is some truth in that old maxim to the effect that a life unquestioned is a life not worth living.

The application of this rule to the issue of euthanasia is obvious.

Here is the meaningful proposition for the weekend: http://info-theory.blogspot.com/2005/02/terri-schiavo-pledge-drive.html

Please consider it in the larger context of your meaningful life.

Jeremy, I don't know the details of this case, but from what you described, I don't know that I agree with you. Obviously, the husband's interest in the life insurance policy is a factor, and it's very likely that it's influencing his judgment... but if (and I recognize this is controversial and may not be true) she is in a permanent vegetative state, isn't she effectively dead? Shouldn't he be entitled to the insurance?

Jonathan, are you assuming a psychological account of personhood? If so, I just don't share your assumptions. Even if she's in a vegetative state, she's still the same person (and is in fact a person still). I realize that there are people who disagree with me on that, but I think the burden of proof is on those who wish to kill someone and not on those who wish to sustain life. It's also not clear at all that she's in such a state or that such a state is irreversible. The case that made the news this week, of someone diagnosed as being in a vegatative state who is now communicating and asking for things, shows exactly that.

It is written that the Devil is the Father of Lies. He certainly is the mastermind of the Culture of Death.

The lie that a person with a diability--however severe--is as good as dead is right out of the pit of hell, and a society built on that lie is a hell on earth.

CURE oppposes all euthanasia without compromise or exception because innocent human life belongs in God's hands, not man's.

Please call on me if I may ever be of help--on or offline.

Earl

Earl E. Appleby, Jr.
Director, Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia (CURE)

Earl, Jonathan isn't saying she's as good as dead. He's pretty much saying she's dead but her body's functions are being preserved anyway. He's saying that what's left isn't really her. The view I think he's coming from holds that a vegetative state contains nothing more than mere animal functions as if you're artificially making the body work when it's ceased to be a living person. As I've said, I don't agree with everything that view assumes, but I think you've seriously misrepresented what he said.

Substitute "effectively dead," Jonathan's words for "as good as dead," which is not a substantive difference in my editorial judgment, and you have exactly what he said.

There is no misrepresentation here. Indeed, I understood precisely what you have described above as his position, Jeremy. I should know it well enough it is the same sort of TAB (temporarily abled bodied) bigotry that CURE has heard at the bedside of every person in coma we have defended over more than two decades in this fight beginning with my own father.

With all due respect, please do not confuse misrepresentation with profound and irrevocable disagreement with an anti-life philosophy that is not only incompatible with the sanctity of life but the very nature of life in this world, viz., body and soul united, as God Himself created it.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings. One thing I have learned is that when life is on the line there is no room for ambiguities.

The reason Jonathan said "effectively dead" is because the word 'dead' is in fact ambiguous. It's uncontroversially ambiguous when it comes to brain death and cardiac death. The medical community has settled on brain death as official death in most cases, since that's the kind that seems easier to clarify as final. I think there are cases of someone's being declared dead when they were able to be revived, but generally speaking brain death is determined to be death for purposes of declaring time of death.

Now what Jonathan is doing is pointing out that another ambiguity, this time with respect to brain death. Is brain death when there's no brain activity, or is it when the parts of the brain that have anything at all to do with personhood are irrecoverably dead. In vegetative cases, the claim is that those parts of the brain are dead, and thus she is dead. Artificially sustaining her involuntary functions then does not prolong her life but just the life of the body that was her body when she was still alive.

Now you may dispute the second ambiguity. It's actually not that great a move from the completely uncontroversial ambiguity that's already there (which you seem to want to deny by your claim that there are no ambiguities, when there clearly are). There aren't just ambiguities but even vagueness. For example, the process of dying is not quantized. It takes time. At some point, death has eventually taken place, but it's not as if there's some microsecond at which it takes place, before which someone is alive and after which someone is dead. There's no sharp line between life and death, biologically speaking, just as there's none with the process of coming into being.

What the view you're saying you understand is saying is that the things that take place over that time of dying involve more than one process. When one of them has taken place and another has not, you insist that the person is still alive in every important sense for moral decisions. I don't think that's true, just because an artificially sustained body with absolutely no brain activity doesn't seem to me to be alive at all. Jonathan is saying something stronger, that even some brain functions don't mean the person is still alive. I don't think we can say that. At best, we should be agnostic on it, I think.

Now what you've done is charged Jonathan with saying that someone's mere having of a disability should be treated as dead. That's why I think you've misrepresented his view. He doesn't think someone with a disability has lost all moral status. He thinks a human body that's not someone has no moral status. If it's someone, then it's a person with moral status. You've therefore misrepresented what he said by claiming that he thinks there are people with disabilities whose lives are not important. He didn't say that. It's possible he thinks that, but that's not what he said. Your disagreement with him is over whether she's a person, not over whether someone can be a person and still lack moral status, but the way you represented his view is that he thinks there can be someone with no moral status. He doesn't think that, as far as I know.

There are other moral issues, anyway. I'm not willing to endorse the view that it's always wrong to kill someone with moral status. I don't think it's too controversial that animals have some moral status, even if it's not as high as that of humans. We find nothing wrong with putting animals out of their misery. To get an account of why it would always be wrong, no matter what, to euthanize a human being, we'd need to have a thoroughly worked out view of what the difference is between humans and animals that justifies saying that it's compassionate to do this with animals but thoroughly evil to do it with humans, when the motivation of compassion is the same in both cases, and some moral status exists in both cases.

I don't think those who favor an absolute moral rule against euthanasia have done that, and I don't see how religious notions like the image of God are going to do it without an explanation of how the image of God changes things when all those factors are present in both cases. You could just say that it is wrong to euthanize higher animals, but most people don't seem to think that.

Jeremy,

You wrote:
Jonathan, are you assuming a psychological account of personhood? If so, I just don't share your assumptions. Even if she's in a vegetative state, she's still the same person.

I sometimes wonder whether the focus on the question 'Is X a person?' is something of a distraction. If you allow me to bracket the legitimate worries you have about the burden of proof for a moment, I'd ask whether you'd be prepared to endorse a principle I suspect Jonathan might, which is that there aren't interesting differences in moral status associated with persons that would allow us to articulate fine grained moral principles in cases of DNR orders or decisions to euthanize.

The effect of a principle such as this has interesting consequences. For example, on a view that is probably close to Jonathan's (which may or may not be mine), if you were forced to choose between using resources to extend the life of someone reasonably thought to be in a permanent vegetative state and someone who is reasonably thought not to be in danger of entering such a state, it would be wrong to treat these two claims as equally stringent. It would be seriously morally wrong in my book to flip coins to decides which claim to some needed resource wins out.

I'm at a loss as to how these judgments concerning pairs of persons could fail to support judgments about persons over time. If this judgment is accurate, I mean, then it suggests that regardless of whether we say that individuals in vegetative states are persons are not, they don't have nearly as strong a claim on resources as do persons.

This wouldn't go so far as to justify euthanasia I suppose, but I think it tells us something about how questions of personhood function in arguments like this.

Jeremy, et al.

Three suggestions. First, the passive/active distinction is an intuitive one that is worth keeping. Sure, there are borderline cases. And I think you're right that lifesupport machine-type cases are on the border. But notice that here the person is living only because of aid that we are rendering. To sever the connection is to cease giving aid, and thus the person dies. Just as it is not a case of active killing if you cease to perform CPR on someone (suppose that the CPR was keeping them alive), it is not a case of active killing when you unplug them from a machine. That *seems* much different than a case of simply killing someone outright (with an injection or whatever). You're not alone to reject the distinction, however. Dan Brock makes that move in one of his essays concerning euthanasia. But, where the distinction might be useful is in the clarification of moral policy, which brings me to point number two.

There seems to be a basic confusion running throughout the blog thus far between the moral permissibility of an act of euthanasia and the moral permissibility of a social policy on euthanasia. The questions are different, and the answers can come apart. It may be perfectly coherent to speak of the moral permissibility of a given act of VAE while denying that a policy of allowing VAE would be a morally good thing. In the Schiavo case, for example, we might agree that this is exactly the sort of abuse that might result from allowing VAE on a national scale, regardless of whether or not individual acts might be permissible.

Lastly, here is a plug for making VAE legal (or at least, here is a really good thing that would come of making in legal--whether this is sufficient to overcome potential negatives I don't know). Regardless of whether or not Mr. Schiavo is making the right choice, suppose that the case were different. Suppose it were my wife in that state and that her wishes were obvious (perhaps she had a living will or whatever). In my state, I would have to act just as they are forced to act in Florida--if she is to die, then we have to starve her to death. What century is this? We don't starve abandon animals to death at the shelters! It seems like it would be a good thing if a lethal injection (or the like) were at least a legal possibility so that these sorts of things could be avoided in the relevant circumstances.

I'm not disputing the active/passive distinction. I'm saying two things. One is that some cases often classified as passive are really active. The other is that the active/passive distinction really just amounts to the distinction between doing and allowing, and I don't think that distinction matches up well enough to a moral distinction.

There are real questions about how to classify things that in some sense are active and in some sense passive. I don't see those as borderline cases as much as just seeing an ambiguity in the distinction. Those cases are active in one sense but passive in another, I suppose. Either way, I don't think the way they're passive is the right sort of way to make enough of a moral difference, because it's the same sort of way that it's passive to allow someone to drown when you had been planning to kill them. Your goal in doing it is their death. That's why I don't think it even seems morally different to unplug from a machine as opposed to injecting with poison. The goal is the same, and the motivation is the same.

I think you're right to point out that there might be cases when euthanasia is ok even if it's a bad idea to allow it legally.

I highly disagree with your comment that "Putting your pet to sleep is voluntary, active euthanasia." How do you figure that it is voluntary? The pet does not consent in its own death, it is involuntary. Any living things life is not less in worth because it is nonhuman. Humans are not in superiority by any means, except maybe in thought. Humans have made this kind of mistake before....African Americans were once thought as unhuman and not worth the life as much as a person who skin is white.

I'll fix that. I think it was just a mistake from hastiness. It's actually not involuntary either, unless the animal can somehow express that it hasn't consented. It's non-voluntary, since there's no desire has been expressed either way.

less writing but be discriptive

I think that all those anti-euthanasia supporters should look at a calendar and see what year it is. It's 2005 not 34AD Modern Society should accept this type of relief as acceptable. You haven't known someone on life support and has been of PVS. It's heart-wrenching and no one should go through it. I strongly support euthanasia and so should society.

I don't see how what year it is is at all relevant. The fact that we have technology might be relevant, because you can't use technology you don't have, but euthanasia was possible as soon as people knew about painless poisons. That technology has been around for a long time. The only issue of technology that makes a difference is the ability to extend someone's life beyond what would ordinarily happen. The debate there, though, is whether someone should use extraodrinary means to continue someone's life. Being anti-euthanasia does not require being opposed to that, though it might include that. The issues are simply far more complicated than you're allowing. I would have thought that reading my post would make that clear. I do explain some of the complexities in the post. It's not simply pro-euthanasia and anti-euthanasia, and some of the moral questions should be difficult even if you have a tendency in one or the other directions on euthanasia in general.

I agree with James Thompson. It is a modern age and we should accept this type of medical procedure. You and your friends are misguided and wrong. Euthanasia is a humane way of ending someones life.

I'm still trying to figure out why people are coming here, failing to read the post (as far as I can tell), not addressing any arguments discussed in the post or the comments, and then acting as if I think coniderations against euthanasia are absolute. I'm being nice by not deleting comments stemming from such rudeness.

I would just like to ask a personal question of Jermey Pierce but one of quite significance. Do you support the death penalty? It's a simple Yes or No question and am interested to know your views. I know that it is not the purpose of the blog but you need not go into great detail and the question is fairly relevant.

Actually, the death penalty is one of the things I talk about on this blog. My view is that the death penalty is in principle not wrong and that we engage in it much to freely in the U.S. due to convicting people of capital crimes much too easily and without sufficient evidence (e.g. Scott Peterson).

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to dealing with this issue in depth on its own. I have discussed the racial issues related to the death penalty, both with respect to the rate of black death sentences as compared with black arrests for capital crimes and with respect to the higher rate of killers of whites being given capital sentences. I've also explained why some black conservatives still think the death penalty is for the good of black communities.

I don't see how it's all that relevant, though. If you take a very simple view that all killing is wrong, it would be relevant, and then you'd have to oppose the death penalty and euthanasia. I don't hold such a view. If you hold that the government has the moral responsibility to take life when necessary to uphold justice, as capital punishment supporters do, I can't see how that says anything about euthanasia, because euthanasia is supposed to be about mercy killing, not deserved killing for the purpose of justice. There's nothing retributive about euthanasia, so supporting capital punishment says nothing about what one should think about this issue.

I sorry but opposing Euthanasia and supporting the death penalty is incredibly hypocritical. 'Justice' as you call it can easily be upheld without the death penalty. In my country we have no death penalty and we dispise the American system. How come a judge can kill somebody but not someone who is acting in the patients best interests. The thing with the death penalty and Euthanasia is that once you've done it there is no going back. However Euthanasia is a good thing. The Death penalty is a disgrace

Hypocrisy is when someone believes and tells others one thing but does another thing. This is not an issue of what I do despite my beliefs or statements against it. It's an issue of whether my views are consistent. That's crucial. The charge you intend to make, I assume, is that I'm inconsistent. That wouldn't mean I'm hypocritical.

I already explained why it's not inconsistent, only to have you, without any argument at all, simply claim that it is inconsistent. The fact that your country does something or despises something is irrelevant. That's not an argument that it shouldn't be done. Lots of people do things that are wrong and despise things that are good. It's certainly true that many people support euthanasia but oppose the death penalty. What you seem unwilling to acknowledge is that it's just as easy to support the death penalty but oppose euthanasia and to do so in a philosophically consistent way. I've already explained why that's so, but since you didn't pay any attention I'll do so in a little more depth.

What's in dispute is whether euthanasia is in someone's best interests. I don't believe that it always is. There are problems in deteminining consent, because there's emotional pressure to free one's family from having to take care of you. There are issues about consenting while under heavy medication. There are worries about killing someone when the diagnosis may have been wrong, or an effective treatment may be right around the corner. Not all of these concerns will apply the same in every case, but these are reasons to worry about euthanasia that simply don't come up with the death penalty.

If the principle for opposing euthanasia is that killing someone is always wrong except when justice requires it, then there's nothing inconsistent about it. I don't believe that principle myself. I think the moral issues are quite complex, as you have failed to acknowledge. You've pretended that I oppose euthanasia without paying attention to the complexities I've acknowledged. I think there are very good reasons to be very cautious about allowing it legally. I don't think it's always immoral, though I think many cases, even ones that are legal in the U.S., are indeed thoroughly immoral.

Are you even familiar with the arguments for capital punishment? Do you understand the Kantian retributivist justification? It's completely unrelated to anything that I've said against euthanasia. The claim is that some people deserve to die because of what they have done. They have taken on themselves the death penalty through forsaking morality, and a just state simply recognizes that after seriously investigating the claim and ensuring that they really did so knowing what they were doing, etc. You may disagree with that claim. What you can't do is act as if someone believing that claim better support euthanasia, because there's nothing in the arguments for euthanasia that have anything to do with deserving to die because of having done something wrong.

In short, here's an extremely easy way to be consistent in opposing euthanasia and supporting capital punishment. Someone could simply say that killing innocent people is wrong, while killing people who deserve to die for their crimes is ok. There's no inconsistency there.

I think that Jeremy Pierce uses big words to try and confuse people and make issues out to be more complex than they are. Only someone who wants others to think that they are intelligent does this. Your complete refusal to understand other peoples point of view is troubling. Your justifications are not without merit but you must understand that other people are entitled to thier opinions

Ha! If there's anything I'm good at, it's understanding and presenting views I disagree with. Obviously you think careful delineation of the issues, concise discrimination between various positions, and detailed argumentation for particular options is a mere disguise. That attitude is called anti-intellectualism, and it's one of the biggest blights on American society today. You obviously haven't been paying much attention, because most of what I was doing in this post was presenting views I disagree with. I fully understand many positions I don't agree with, and I present arguments against them. If those aren't good arguments, tell me why. Don't just pretend I haven't given arguments to begin with, as if you can just dismiss them with character smears.

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