Test 2: Ethical Problems
It is considered that only persons have the indisputable right-to-live, unlike other living creatures. A person has an autonomous physical activity, breathes, ingests and digests without medical help, and is self-conscious.
The right-to-live can be deprived not unjustly if it is a voluntary decision of a person, he/she can not be cured, and suffers from terrible pain.
Non-human animals do not have the right-to-live, because they do not have self-consciousness (Hahn, 2014, p. 149).
Abortion is justified before the 24th week of pregnancy, because a fetus is not a person yet. After it abortion is permissible if a woman was raped, because it violates her voluntary decision, and if pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, because she has her own right-to-live (Hahn, 2014, p. 168).
Infanticide and euthanasia can be justified if sufferings from incurable diseases or inborn defects do not allow patients to live and die with dignity (Hahn, 2014, p. 197-200).
Justification of suicide is impossible, because only one person is involved in it and individual reasons for such decision are enough for the particular person.
Capital punishment can be not unjust if crimes committed by a person are too serious to let such person live.
There are certain conditions under which killing is permissible. Only persons who have self-consciousness have the right-to-live. Killing violates the harm principle if it is not a decision of a person. Medical personnel or relatives can decide and assist to end life only of terminally ill patients, who experience inhuman pain and want to stop it.
If non-human animals do not have moral status and thus rights, people do not have direct obligations to them. People have direct duties to the animals that belong to them, so they must protect them. This category of animals have the right-to-live. Animals that do not belong to anybody, and so people have no direct duties to them, can be assassinated (Hahn, 2014, p. 149-150).
Regan’s theory supposes that every creature has its inherent value and it is the same for everyone, both humans and non-human animals. That is why all animals have the right-to-live (Hahn, 2014, p. 155).
Contract theory of morality is criticized by Regan because according to it humans have indirect duties to animals. Thus Regan considers the argument of the theory fallacious. He claims that a person can be kind only to his animal, and at the same time he/she might be cruel to the others, which is not morally justified. Utilitarian defense of animal rights is criticized by Regan because of inadequate definitions. It supposes that the emphasis is on egalitarianism, but in fact it is on personal interests. From the utilitarian approach the rights of animals are not important, because the feelings of people are prioritized (Hahn, 2014, p. 152-153).
I agree with the idea of Regan about inherent value of every creature, because it is impossible to love animals and to justify their killing at the same time.
There are two categories of animals: those who have the right-to-live and those who do not. Animals that belong to someone have this right, because their master has direct obligations to them. Indirect obligations to other animals justify their assassination. Regan argues with egalitarian and contraction approach to this issue, claiming that all creatures have inherent value and thus are equal, which makes any assassination immoral.
It is reasonable to deny abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. On this stage a fetus starts to breathe by itself. Though, the main problem is in the definition of a person. The brain activity starts approximately from the 10th week of pregnancy, but still a fetus is not called a person. It is necessary to distinguish biological reasons for the right-to-live from moral ones (Hahn, 2014, p. 168).
If a woman became pregnant in the result of rape, abortion is morally justified at any stage, even when a fetus is considered to be a person and has the right-to-live, because it is the violation of the Volenti maxim and she is not responsible for the fetus.
If pregnancy places mother’s life in danger, abortion is permissible, because everyone has his/her own right-to-live (Hahn, 2014, p. 177).
If birth-control measures have been used, abortion after 24 weeks is not permissible, because the intercourse was consensual and the fetus is already a person, who has the right-to-live.
If pregnancy is the result of absence of birth-control measures, the situation is the same with previous and abortion is not permissible (Hahn, 2014, p. 190).
There are two morally justified reasons that allow abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy: rape and danger to mother’s life. In the case of rape the intercourse with pregnancy was not the desire of the woman, so she is not responsible for the fetus. In the case of danger to mother’s life no one can violate woman’s own right-to-live. If the intercourse was voluntary with or without contraception, abortion on late terms of pregnancy, when fetus is considered to be a person, is not permissible.
There are certain cases when infanticide is permissible and medically justified.
Infanticide is the termination of the life of an infant or a newborn with serious health defectives (Hahn, 2014, p. 195).
A newborn is different from a fetus because it is already a viable creature and thus has the right-to-live. The main characteristics of this category are ability to breath, ingest and digest without medical help, and being outside of mother’s womb. Unlike a fetus, a newborn does not violate the rights of its mother or endangers her life.
Active euthanasia in the case of terminally ill newborns can be defended. It is morally permissible for parents of a child to make this decision if they have made everything possible to save the life of their child, but failed. In case a newborn will live several years and will suffer from terrible pain, or will never become self-conscious, infanticide is permissible (Hahn, 2014, p. 197).
A newborn differs from a fetus by the fact that it is a viable creature, that functions individually. Its life can be terminated only in case of inborn incurable defectives that will not allow it to attain adulthood, and during unconscious life it will suffer from inhuman pain.
There are cases when suicide and euthanasia are permissible.
People have the right to live and to die with dignity. This issue determines the distinction between moral permissible and impermissible euthanasia. A person who suffers from a terminal disease and can live with dignity in such pain can ask for facilitating their death. It is not immoral and does not violate the harm principle. However, when a person wants to pass away because he/she has lost the sense of living, euthanasia is impermissible, because a person in emotional crisis does not loose human dignity.
Euthanasia is a voluntary termination of life to relieve incurable suffering.
Passive euthanasia supposes ending treatment, after which patients die. Active euthanasia means direct participation in stopping patient’s life (Hahn, 2014, p. 200).
Suicide is the decision to terminate own life without help of others. It does not suppose that someone except the person who wants to die participates is involved unlike euthanasia.
Active/passive euthanasia can be morally justified if physical sufferings are inevitable and terrific. Suicide is an individual decision, that does not need moral justification, because every person has his/her own limit of suffering.
Euthanasia and suicide are the decisions of terminally ill and suffering people to stop their pain and die with dignity. Such decisions are morally justified. In case of passive or active euthanasia a doctor who helps a patient in such decision does not commit a crime.
Hahn, R. (2014). Conduct and constraints: testing the limits of the harm principle (10th ed.). n.d.: Pearson Custom Publishing.