Question: Killing and Letting Die

01Nov07

Is actively killing someone always morally worse than just letting them die?

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One Response to “Question: Killing and Letting Die”

  1. 1 oinos_kai_alathea

    I would strongly argue that it is not inherently so. There is a generally perception that that is the case because in cases where purposeful killing occurs the intetions are likely to be bad, it is likely to be a positive action that took effort, and the consequences are bad. But the general perception doesn’t define whether or not something is moral – it may be a symptom of it (or it may not be) but it doesn’t define it. The basic argument against killing is that of denying someone their right to life or that of hurting their moral agency. But these things are just as true of letting someone die when you have the ability to save them. Exactly how culpable you might be then depends on those factors – if the cost of saving them is extreme, such as dying yourself, then it might be excusable not to do so. But the difference is not the distinction between killing and letting die.

    There are cases – such as cases of true euthanasia – where the consequences are positive and the intentions are good. If in these circumstances active euthanasia then has more positive consequences than passive (passive causes more suffering) then active is the more morally acceptable form.


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