A dignified death?
For some people, the most important question about euthanasia is "Is it ever right to kill an innocent human being?" Deontologists believe we all need rules to live by, and everyone recognises the power behind the rule "Do not kill". Where does this rule come from, and why should we keep it? Some people choose to break this rule in some circumstances. Teleologists believe there are occasions when 'the end justifies the means'.
There are other issues raised by euthanasia, however. If euthanasia was legal, what effect would this have on the elderly, people with disabilities, the terminally ill? It isn't merely a consequentialist consideration - weighing up the amount of anxiety caused by a change in law. It is about the way we view people. Are some lives worth less than others?
Euthanasia is one of the most difficult ethical issues you will face. Even if you know what you value most, if you have chosen an ethical theory that you are really happy with, the answer won't be straight-forward. What if I believe in the sanctity of life, that all humans should be given dignity and respect - how should I respond to a dying person's plea to help them have a peaceful death?
Approach this issue with an open mind and careful attention to detail. Consider the issues separately, and apply the ethical theories carefully. I hope you find the content on this site helpful. It is aimed particularly at RS Philosophy and Ethics students, and anyone who is interested in the euthanasia debate. This site examines a Christian response to euthanasia alongside ethical responses. There are some resources particularly aimed at A level RS students. There are also book reviews, links to other websites (including news reports) and multimedia resources. We have started developing interactive quizzes, and A level Philosophy and Ethics students can find help with past exam questions.
Euthanasia is an issue which may touch the lives of any of us, and I believe that studying ethics can help prepare us for things that life throws at us. If you are reading this because you are currently facing a personal decision about euthanasia, you may find it helpful to speak to a counsellor to talk through these issues, as your feelings at this time might influence your thinking. This is in fact a key feature in many responses to euthanasia - to what degree can anyone faced with this decision act in an objective way?