Short Answer Questions
- Explain the distinction between active and passive euthanasia.
- Describe the drowning baby example and how it provides evidence for James Rachels' Equivalence Thesis about killing and letting die.
- Why do Wiesbard and Siegler say that withdrawl of fluids and nutrition is "different in critical respects" from removing a respirator?
- What is Wiesbard and Siegler's concern about using "right to die" arguments as a method of cost control?
For Further Discussion
- Irrationality of letting babies die. In the United States, Down's syndrome infants are sometimes allowed to die when they have an intestinal blockage. When they do not have such a blockage, they are allowed to live. On pg.110, Rachels writes of the practice: "This, I wish to suggest, is irrational." What exactly is contradictory about this practice? Can you reconstruct his argument precisely in a way that clearly establishes the practice is irrational? Is this enough to establish that allowing such babies to die is wrong?
- Challenges to Rachels' view. Rachels considers several challenges to his view. It is worth thinking about all of them. But here are two significant challenges to consider.
- Judith Thomson gives an example that compares cutting off a man's head to punching a man in the nose. How is this supposed to provide a counterargument against Rachels' thesis? What is Rachels' response — and do you agree with it?
- Another challenge that Rachels considers is that a weaker "Compromise View" is better than Rachels' thesis. The Compromise View says that killing and letting die are sometimes morally equivalent and sometimes not, and that whether they are depends on a case by case basis. Identify Rachels' response to this. Do you agree with Rachels? Or, do you think there is more reason to agree with the Compromise View?
- Respirators vs Feeding Tubes. Weisbard and Siegler argue that withdrawing respirator support is "different in critical respects" from withdrawing a feeding tube. Do you agree with what they say? Why or why not? Can you think of an example in which there is no difference?
- Examples of cost control. Give as many examples as you can in which there might be a problem with introducing "cost control" into the decision of whether or not to allow someone to continue living.
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