Debate Rounds (3)
We must realize that pain is not the greatest evil. It is better to love somebody who is in pain, rather than kill someone due to their pain. It's good to suffer with one another to show compassion and commiserate. There are objective goods that come from suffering. We should try to help a person who is going through a rough time, fighting whatever he/she's fighting, instead of completely ending his/her life.
You write that ending someone's life as a way to help them is unethical. Which moral authority has decided that this is unethical? You write that we are morally obligated to uphold everyone's human dignity. To whom to we owe this obligation?
To me, your perspective and notions of dignity seem romantic and perhaps a little naive. There are people whose final years are pure torment. Where is the dignity in letting someone be horrendously tortured for years when they themselves would rather their lives be ended?
The sort of normative ethics that you base your thinking on is not actually very capable of dealing with life and death scenarios. You would generalize all cases of euthanasia as if they were the same when most certainly, they will all be different. Imagine if you came to the site of a disaster with a lot of people hurt and had to decide who to help first. In this instance, you probably wouldn't think that all life basically has the same worth and that it doesn't matter who you help. Instead, you would be forced to prioritize and you would probably act in the way in which you could do most good. You might choose to save a child over a wounded old person because you figure the child has a greater chance of surviving and potentially more years of happiness in front of her than the old person does.
When you have to start prioritizing like that, you have effectively become a utilitarian. Need has forced you to adopt a different way of thinking. Utilitarianism says that the best moral action is the one that minimizes suffering and as such, it is actually capable of morally dealing with life and death scenarios like euthanasia is. From that perspective, to sentence someone to live out the rest of their days in horrific suffering, because you have some lofty ideas about human dignity, could be a highly immoral act.
In short, when deciding whether we are for or against euthanasia, we should look at the consequences for those involved, not fleeting, abstract ideals. It is hard to argue why we have to uphold such ideals, but it's easy to see why we should minimize suffering. It is something basically everyone innately understands and can relate to.
Let me ask, you love your friends, correct? Do you love your family? If you have a spouse, do you love him/her? I love my friends and family. I want the best for them. I don't want them to suffer. I will love them until the end. When a person is near the end of life, we must be careful with our emotions. Of course we care about them, and don't want them to be upset suffering. But we can't let them disobey the laws of nature. We must try to keep them alive as long as possible. It is not up to us or any doctor to take away their life. We know so through morals and human/natural law. By encouraging, or allowing someone to be euthanized, we are equating them to their disease or health condition. "To commit euthanasia is to act with the specific intention that somebody should be nobody. To commit euthanasia is to fail to see the intrinsic worth or dignity of the person. The dignity of the sick cannot be erased by illness and suffering. Such procedures are not private decisions; they affect the whole society. Death with dignity, in the end, is the realization that human beings are also spiritual beings. We have to promote the way of caring for the dying in which mercy is extended to the patients without inducing death."
"You might choose to save a child over a wounded old person because you figure the child has a greater chance of surviving and potentially more years of happiness in front of her than the old person does." This statement is problematic. No one should think like that. One should try to save both people. We are all important. I'm aware that there are circumstances in which one would need to make a decision of saving one over another. Such a decision is based on circumstances. I understand, too, your point on how every case of euthanasia is different /end of life decisions are unique. But it is not up to us to make the decision of terminating another human being's life.
With that hopefully cleared up, it might be good to look at the very basic philosophy of what a society is and what it should do. I believe that a society should maximize the quality of life for its members for the long run. It should reduce suffering. At its most basic, a society can be described by a group of people who all decide to give up certain freedoms so that they can coexist and cooperate more efficiently and peacefully. Society is built on such cooperation. Thus, these people may for example agree to give up the freedom to steal because they recognize a society in which stealing is prohibited is better for all of them. Hence, whenever a new law is considered, each member of society should ask oneself, "will this law help to increase the quality of life of society's members in the long run and thus lead to the betterment of society?"
You mention normative ethics, rules based on what catholic priests think. Instead of creating a society which is good for people, perhaps they would rather create a society to please God. But I live in a secular country where church and state has been separated. The normative ethics of catholisism have no special, elevated status when it comes to considerations on what makes a good society. Neither should they, because it doesn't do a very good job. Telling people that they are not good enough, that they are sinners if they masturbate, that they are inherently sinful if they are gay, that people in Africa can't use condoms to avoid contracting HIV. This is merely scratching the surface, but delving into past sins of the catholic church would take too long and is outside the scope of this debate. Suffice to say, the church may not seem as ethical from the outside and the laws it would make are not necessarily laws that make up a good society. If we can't all agree on what God wants and whether or not that is even relevant, it is better to use more sound reasoning that we can all relate to and that can demonstrably be shown to be relevant; The increase of life quality for society's members in the long run. The decreasing of suffering.
"I believe that a society should maximize the quality of life for its members for the long run." I believe that a society should maximize the ability to live for as long as nature allows, for its members. For people who are healthy to people who are sick, they all are alive. Their lives are all important. Quality of life is important of course but in a sense that we are obligated to help those who are in need of care, whether they receive it from doctors or other medical figures. But we also must show love and compassion towards the sick, instead of taking away their life. Permitting someone to inflict death upon oneself is intrinsically evil. We have no authority to do so. we humans are not the highest being, and we know this, because of St. Thomas Aquinas' proofs that God exists and is the true deity and the only one with the greatest power.
And I live in America. My beliefs go hand in hand with the teachings of the Catholic Church because that's how I was brought up, and that's what I truly believe in. The ethics I have learned and am still learning, aren't only those of the Catholic Church. We Catholics actually don't tell people that they aren't good enough. That's not what we believe in. We are taught that we should embrace everyone for who they are no matter what race, ethnicity, or sexuality. What you have said about us Catholics is incorrect. I'm sure some have said that in the past and I'm sorry if they have, as that is not the true Christian way. We love gay people, lesbians, transgenders etc, all the same. We don't agree with some of the things they do, but we love them, and embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all meant to love each other in the truest way, which I believe is the way Christ loved others. He wants us to be truly happy, and objectively, euthanasia can bring sadness and even more pain, as well as regret in the end.
Morals do not come from God. The basis of morals lie in our own biology. The worth of a human life ultimately depends on what that life can do for you. Hence, the life of a terrorist who would rather you were dead will be less valuable to you than the life of a friend. Your subconscious already knows this, but you have learned a set of false ethics. This just creates moral conflict which I'm sure the Catholic church often discards that as either sin or a test of some sort.
While the worth of a life being valued by its usefulness to you may sound awfully dark, humans are generally very good at recognizing the potential worth in others and generally try peaceful or positive approaches first, unless they have cause not to. But I digress. The fine details are currently outside the scope of this debate.
The teachings of the philosophers that establised the ethics you cite are to a large degree outdated, just like their understanding of physics would be outdated. Thomas Hobbes, for example, thought that morality is a complete construct and if society should collapse, so would morality and humanity would lapse into savagery. Today, we know that humans are inherently moral beings that specialize at cooperation, which is something morals regulate and facilitate. If society collapses, it is fair to assume humans will cooperate to recreate it.
So, closing arguments; Your morals are not universal and has little real world validity. You claim all life has equal worth, but have not provided arguments why this is. You claim killing, even to help, is wrong, but not why this is. You claim human dignity is more important than human suffering or a person's right to die, but not what you mean by dignity or why this is. In short, you have failed to provide a convincing argument.
A decision to allow uthanasia should be based on moral principles which are universal and everyone can recognize the worth of reducing suffering in the world. Hence, euthanasia should be allowed because its application would reduce suffering and thus increase the quality of life for people in society.
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