Gay Williams Euthanasia Essay


Section 4. Readings

J. Gay-Williams: The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia

1. it is against Nature

2. It is against Self Interest

mistaken diagnosis

chance of cure

pessimism- self defeating

3. Practical Effects

a. Dr's and RN's are committed to saving lives. They would be corrupted to think that there are occasions when the person (Patient) is better off dead.

b. Slippery Slope!!-

from Self Administered to Other Administered

from Voluntary to non-voluntary

from for the benefit of the person to the benefit of others, society, humankind

Today we considered one way of classifying different kinds of euthanasia.

Outline by  Don Berkich,  University of Texas, Corpus Christi (by permission)

The article, by Gay-Williams, presents what might be called the 'Traditional View' of euthanasia and the standard arguments against it.

It is easy to show that the standard arguments against the traditional view of euthanasia are unsound since each argument clearly has at least one, and in some cases more than one, false premise. We conclude that Gay-Williams gives us no reason to think that other-administered voluntary active euthanasia is morally impermissible. You should be sure that you are able to clearly explain why each of Gay-Williams' arguments are unsound.

What we learn from Gay-Williams is that the standard arguments are worthless.

Gay-Williams does us the favor of spelling out what he means by 'euthanasia'. Of course, his definition is rather narrow. But it suffices to frame his arguments.


A Definition of Euthanasia:




Person X commits euthanasia on Person Y iff





i.X takes the life of Y






ii.Y is suffering from a disease or injury from which Y is not expected to recover






iii.the action of X's taking Y's life is deliberate and intentional




Gay-Williams gives three arguments to show that all instances of Euthanasia are morally wrong as he defines 'Euthanasia'.

The Argument from Nature:








All euthansia is acting against our human nature.



All acting against our human nature is a denial of our human dignity.



All denial of our human dignity is morally wrong.



All euthanasia is morally wrong.



The Argument from Self-Interest:








All euthanasia is action containing the possibility that we will work against our own interests.



All action containing the possibility that we will work against our own interests is morally wrong.



All euthanasia is morally wrong.



The Argument from Practical Effects:








All cases of euthanasia are cases that could have a corrupting influence on doctors and nurses.



All cases that could have a corrupting influence on doctors and nurses are morally wrong.



All cases of euthanasia are morally wrong.


Unfortunately for Gay-Williams, it is a fairly trivial matter to show that each of these arguments is unsound. I leave it as an exercise for you to show that at least one premise of each argument is false by supplying a counter-example.







A Way to Stop the Pain

Imagine your mother as an old woman. She has not been felling well, so she goes into the doctors office for some tests she is found to have cancer of the liver. She is given an operation shortly there after however it dose not go well the cancer has spread and they can not take it all out the blood she was given in the operation was bad, HIV positive. The doctors our sorry for there mistake and give her only one year to live. Over the next couple of months her conditions get worse she comes down with a common cold and her body can not fight it. She is in and out of the Hospital she can not walk and has trouble eating she has lost all her hair from the radiation and the pain just gets worse with every passing day. She is eighty-one years old and tells you she fells her time is up she has done all she has wanted she has said her good byes and she wants help out. What do you do? Is the answer euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide or do you let her live out the rest of her short life in pain and misery.

In the The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia by J. Gay-Williams there is three many arguments against euthanasia: the argument from nature, the argument from self-interest, and the argument from practical effects. In the first argument, nature is used to show what is wrong with Euthanasia. That every human desires life and wants to continue living. That euthanasia sets us apart from our own nature and that it dose harm to our dignity. (Gay-Williams p.454) He talks about the processes of nature and how it is humane nature to live and to strive to stay alive. How people get out of dangerous situations as fast or by any means possible. Thus, euthanasia rejects our basic human character and requires that we regard ourselves as something less then human. (Gay-williams p.454)

The second of his arguments is self interest that it is in our own self-interest to stay alive as long as possible. Because with today s doctors being human and humans making mistakes those doctors could make a mistaken diagnosis or a mistaken prognosis. That with a mistaken diagnosis we may be led to believe that we dying of a disease when actually we do not even have a disease. (Gay-Williams p.454) There are also many advances made to medicine every year and if you where to give up on your life because of a disease or illness you would not be looking out for your own self-interest. With experimental procedure or a hitherto untried technique or the chance of spontaneous remission you could be cured from what ever disease or illness you had.(Gay-Williams p.454)

In the third of his three arguments he writes about the practical effects. That if doctors where to help out with assisted suicide they might losses there edge and knowing that if they could not stop the pain they could always just end the persons life by assisted suicide. Gay-Williams believes that this would cause an overall decline in the quality of medical care patients would receive. So he wants to stop the practice of euthanasia before it gets to the point where all medical care is jeopardized. Euthanasia is inherently wrong because it violates the nature and the dignity of human beings. (Gay-Williams p.455) Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should never be allowed even if a person was suffering. Suffering is also a natural part of life and should be no reason for the tacking of a human life. (Gay-Williams p.455)

Now knowing all the argument against euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide we can take a look at what is wrong with them. First is the argument that every human desire life and wants to continue living, but what is life. In Compton s computer dictionary it is defined as a source of vigor or liveliness that property or quality of humans, plants, and animals that distinguishes them from inorganic matter or dead organisms, characterized by the ingestion of nutrients, the storage and use of energy, the excretion of wastes, growth, reproduction. So if one was so put out so much by an illness or a disease that they did not show signs of vigor or liveliness or use of energy dose that mean they are not alive. No all it means that you can have life with out obvious signs of life. However is that what everyone desires a life with obvious signs of life like movement of the body or the ability to communicate. That physician-assisted suicide rejects our most basic human characteristic to be alive. To be in a coma and to have no use of your body or mind to stay alive would be to go against other human characteristics like people getting out of dangerous situations as fast or by any means possible and the only way out of a incurable coma is death.

In James Rachels The Morality of Euthanasia he talks about how euthanasia is morally acceptable in some circumstances. He uses the argument from mercy as it is the most common argument used to support euthanasia. Terminal patients sometimes suffer pain so horrible that it can hardy be comprehended by those who have not actually experienced it. (Rachels p.457) He says that patients who suffer from great pain and agony should have ever right to physician-assisted suicide to stop the pain. However Gay-williams says they should not have this right because of the chance of a mistaken diagnosis or the possibility of experimental procedure or spontaneous remission. No, the chances of a doctor giving a mistaken diagnosis on a terminal patient suffering great pain are none to none. And if the patient was given the choices of experimental procedures, experimental drugs, or spontaneous remission why not the choice of assisted suicide. Experimental procedures or drugs could have the same affect as assisted suicide and the chance of spontaneous remission is less then the chances of the doctor giving a mistaken diagnosis on the terminal patient suffering great pain.

Utilitarianism is another way to talk about the morality of euthanasia they say that actions should be judged on right and wrong according to whether they cause misery or happiness. Any action is morally right if it decrease the amount of misery or it increase the amount of happiness in the world. (Rachels p.458) In his third argument Gay-williams say suffering is also a part of life with values for the individual and for others. Then again if it is morally right to end misery and suffering is a form of misery then we should try to end all suffering and it should not be apart of life. Euthanasia as one argument that Gay-Williams dose not talk about (Rachels p.459 ) the argument from the golden rule do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you put your self in that position of a terminal patient and you wished someone would help you kill your self then it is OK to do.

She is eighty-one years old and tells you her time is up she has done all she has wanted she has said her good byes and she wants help out. What do you do? If you wanted to help her to really help her you would assist her in her decision of assisted suicide. Sometimes it is better to pass on then to live in a life full of pain. Life is the greatest gift ever given and it is yours and it is mine. The best part about it is that you have total control over it and you can make your own decisions on what to do to what you think. And if you fell your time is up and you would like it better off if you where not alive anymore. And you would like some help whether it be because of pain of other outside reasons you have every right to make the decision and on one should be able to take that away from you.

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