Mercy Killing: Utilitarianism and Euthanasia

The balance between Utilitarianism and Euthanasia

The dilemma in the case regards striking a moral balance between euthanasia and utilitarianism. When Dr. Jill assists in the suicide of the 400 patients, the deaths will occur because of an intentional act or omission, which amounts to euthanasia. Mill’s utilitarianism uses the end to justify the morality of the means (Mill, Williams, & Kill, 1993).

Put differently, an action is morally justifiable when it causes the greatest happiness to the greatest majority. By dint of this line of thought, Dr. Jill’s suicidal assistance to the 400 volunteering patients is morally correct since it will increase satisfaction and decrease pain for the other 3000 patients.

Additionally, Mill opines that every person has a civil right of exercising absolute autonomy over his/her body (Mill, 2002). As such, decisions made about the disposition of one’s body are for them to make. Accordingly, the 400 patients who voluntarily express their will to die are acting within their civil entitlement.

Further, the pain-pleasure ethics inform the administrator’s decision to call the district attorney. The call is a manifestation of the dilemma that arises when the administrator tries to wage pleasure of saving 400 patients willing to live with the pain of sustaining 400 patients who have volunteered to die (Mill, 1828).

As an attorney, I consider sociological ethics such that we exist in a society, which celebrates births and mourns deaths. Life is such a precious and divine gift, which needs protection by all means, including taking a few lives to save the greatest number.

Utilitarianism and the 1972 Munich Olympics

John Stuart Mill conceives that the principle of achieving greatest happiness for the majority while averting harm underpins the choice of reactionary means likely to deliver the best outcome.

Therefore, the pragmatic approach in the hostage situation, as was the case in Munich, is to save the greatest number of hostages and incapacitate the largest number of hostiles, with least collateral damage (Betz, 1982). Therefore, the strategy to kill the lead terrorist is in its preface antithetical to utilitarianism.

Killing the lead terrorist will act as a provocateur that will make the surviving terrorists even more hostile thereby killing the greatest number of hostages. However, considering the imminence of the situation, it is morally justified to shoot the lead terrorist, arrest the surviving ones, and save the greatest number of hostages as that will halt the occurrence of an undesirable outcome of a hostage situation.

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