Me, Learning Ethics: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

I take it that this is the first controversial topic in this class, and the subjects will probably become more interesting as it progresses.

On a personal level, I would find physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia to be immoral. This subject has passed through my thought process, before. Colorado did pass a law last year that allows those who are terminally ill to take part in physician-assisted suicide. I clearly remember voting against this measure. It has been about a year since it was approved, and I have begun to somewhat reconsider my original position.

Our textbook mentions how a dog would be euthanized if it were to be under the same level of sickness and torture that a man with cancer is under (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 580). I understand the comparison because I had more than a handful outdoor cats die from an infectious disease, last year. My husband offered to shoot all of them, but I decided that it would be too gory and unnatural. I did watch them rot from the inside out, for hours. Looking back, I would put them out of their misery. As for humans, they should have the right to suicide, but by their own hand; therefore, I don’t completely agree with either Rachels or Gay-Williams.

James Rachels quotes Alsop: “No human being with a spark of pity could let a living thing suffer so, to no good end (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 580.” It would be considered morally correct under Utilitarianism because it would lessen the amount of grief being experienced by multiple people (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 580). Rachels considers the Utilitarian argument to be weak because some people receive joy from committing cruel acts or repression, which proves that maximizing happiness and general satisfaction is a wrong way to measure euthanasia (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 581). That makes sense. He refines the argument and makes his case by adding that if someone is completely sure of wanting euthanasia, then no rights are being infringed, and everyone will be satisfied and happy (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 582).

J. Gay-Williams employs the Natural Law Theory, when it comes to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 585). It does seem that the human body puts effort into not dying, even though we die every second by aging. The body goes through multiple processes when there is a sickness, and that is why most deaths take quite a while. Gay-Williams believes that medical professionals and family may become selfish and careless by deciding to kill the victim right away, when there may actually be a cure (Rachels and Rachels, 2017, p. 586).” Overall, he considers euthanasia to be extreme and unnecessary.

My conscious is still bothering me, when it comes to this particular subject and the way I have, and haven’t, utilized it. So I did not have cats shot in the past, which was cruel, since they were suffering. So I finally did have Arabella shot, since she was suffering, but it is probably considered cruel. What makes a veterinarian’s operating table preferable? James says animals always know when they will be “put down”–that they sense the death of that specific room. Truthfully, some pets are capable of knowing when their owners have cancer or any other life-threatening disorders. So is that shot better than the other shot because it’s less gory? It is certainly not quicker.

Perhaps, it’s because pet owners want to caress their best friend/”child” as the heartbeat ceases to go on. I never want to be present when any kind of creature is dying. I would much rather remember the individual as healthy and coherent as possible. This obviously applies to humans, since physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia is legal in some places. Sooner, or later, I will probably have to interact with a person that will choose this route. That may be worse than knowing someone who did it in any of the “old-fashioned” ways. I mean, you can’t exactly stop the deceased, or have a final conversation. Well, there are seances, but that’s a whole different subject, isn’t it?

~Here are the replies I received to my post~

Fellow student #1:


when I was voting last year it did take me awhile to think about that as well. Some things I would agree with and some I wouldn’t. I think with this topic there are a lot of things to think about and different scenerios.


Well, death is a heavy subject. I think some people would rather have euthanasia performed because they would rather not deal with the stigma associated with suicide. It’s really the same action, except one includes planning, paperwork, and a doctor. Of course, killing oneself “illegally” could cause issues with the insurance company, if someone planned to leave any money behind. There is always something that results in the slight shifting of my opinion, in one way or another.

Fellow student #2:

Hi Jacquline,

I don’t see how euthanasia is really like suicide. I know that it’s also termed as physician assisted suicide but I think it’s entirely different. Patients are still succumbing to a terminal illness, they’re just foregoing the long route to get there.


Everyone has to do what they feel they have to do, in the end, but it’s still a form of suicide. The dictionary defines suicide: “the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.”

Suicide. (2017). In Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Retrieved from

Fellow student #3:

Good day, Jacquline,

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is indeed suicide. When one takes their own life or give permission to end there life is just suicide. but the question is, is it moral? To me and my beliefs, I have to say no “please keep in mind that I respect everyone to their own belief,” I have even seen my mom go through it and I did pray for God to end her life or make her batter. There was one person within our class that told me and us that her father was given only three months to live, to this day he is still alive and doing very well. Now if they took the road of euthanasia he would not.


Well, that sounds heavy. What terrifies me is that a medical professional may be wrong. Would I resort to physician-assisted suicide? No. Would I consider a “traditional” form of suicide? Possibly. I guess I wouldn’t know for certain until the time comes–hopefully not. I don’t know if I could be strong enough, physically and mentally, to deal with a painful, natural death. Ideally, I would prefer to die in my sleep as did my father and his father.

Fellow student #4:


Interesting that you took the different side of this opinion compared to so many others in our class. I remember voting for it personally since I always feel it should be up to a person. As far as you using Williams medical example in this. I always saw medicine as just something is just a temporary road block since like you said, ” we die every second by aging.” It’s fascinating to me how hard the human body will fight though and usually the human body won’t give up, unless the person has come to the mindset that that they are done, or the body just physically can’t anymore. Thanks for the insight coming from the opposite side.


I have a tendency to “fight for the underdog,” of the moment. I don’t even try–it just happens. I actually haven’t read everyone’s posts, yet, so I did not know that. I am not sure if I would have voted differently had I had the information that I now do. I want everyone to make their own choices, but I don’t want my vote to be considered a vote of agreement. Therein lies my problem.

Fellow student #5:

I really appreciated your point of view, Jacqueline. Very insightful.. Neither or. I think I may even lean towards your perspective after more seeing your input and more consideration because of how heavy it is for another person (doctor) to take part in such a personal action… Yes, by definition it is a form of suicide, so then maybe that’s what it should be. Involving someone else could cause untold psychological damage because for them it isn’t just a form of suicide… it could be viewed as murder too.


Thanks. It probably could be considered murder. Well, if I had taken my cats to the veterinarian, he would have given them a shot. Had I let my husband have his way, he would have given them a different kind of shot. Now, I think I would consider both actions to be murder. Though, I imagine there are certain individuals out there who would consider my inaction in letting them die naturally, and painfully, as a form of murder. I disagree, but I really can imagine the variety of opinions.

Fellow student #6:


I was very surprised to see your approach to this discussion. Each of us is entitled to our opinion, and I’m glad to see that you are not afraid to let others know your thought process. coo-does to you.


Jacquline and class,

Thoughtful overview and text integration, Jacquline.

Class, Rachels and Gay-Williams have quite different arguments supporting their positions. How would you describe the supporting principles in each?


Rachels, James, and Stuart Rachels. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. 8th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2017. Print.


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