Euthanasia: A Utilitarian Perspective

There are many bioethical issues to discuss but I’d rather choose the Euthanasia to relate to our moral theory, the famous utilitarianism. The utilitarianism is complete and integrated and is one of the major theory central to nursing, alongside deontology.

A hundred and years ago, to question the absolute worth of human life is a very important matter. Committing suicide is hindered by the society and doing this is unethical. In relation to this thought, asking a doctor to help someone’s life to end i s really absurd. Up until this present time, physicians who were assisting and allowing their patients to be killed or commit suicide remains a very confusing thought, both legally and morally. In this blog I will discuss the moral permissibility of Euthanasia.

Although most of my blockmates discussed about this particular topic, I would still love to express my inner feelings and opinions for this matter. So Euthanasia goes like this. When a patient has a fatal disease and has no view of future recoveries, they weren’t able to receive prolonging treatment rather, they die in an artless way. This artless way of death is what we call as Euthanasia.

However, Euthanasia is roughly classified into two —active and passive. The active one is making one die or what we refer to as killing. The other one, which is the passive, is letting or allowing one to die. Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive. On the other hand, active euthanasia is done with more active means such as the use of potassium chloride, muscle-relaxing medicine and so on.

Animals, child, non-voluntary, involuntary and voluntary —are the types of Euthanasia.  But for this blog, I chose what I think I can elaborate in a beautiful manner, and for this reason I probably prefer Voluntary Euthanasia or in other words, death in a painful manner, to be my topic.

To make it simple, let’s make it hypothetical. Suppose I ask you to either kill me or let me die, that my medical condition gets so bad and that I am delirious and won’t recover. If you then comply to my request, we have what we call as Voluntary Euthanasia. We call it as voluntary because the person killed wanted to end his life.

Our main argument for Euthanasia is a Utilitarian one. Utilitarians believe that any action should cause the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and the end result is what should determine the moral worth of the initial action. Since Euthanasia will increase happiness and decrease pain at the same time, then it is morally correct, they argued.

If we are about to calculate the resulting actions, Euthanasia will increase the utiles of a terminally ill patient but decreases the utiles that represents the pain.  The level of pain and the progression of the disease would also render the person unable to enjoy the activities that made his life pleasurable, so there could be no higher intellectual or emotional pleasures to balance the physical pain. At best, the person continues to suffer at the negative seven; if his illness has not reached its climax, his suffering may increase. In contrast, his death will create a value of zero, and thus misery is reduced. Moreover, his family and friends will be spared the pain of watching him suffer through a prolonged illness.

Utilitarians also do believe that one has complete sovereign over their body and any decisions to be made about one’s body are up to them and no other authority. If a person volunteers to die in his own will, then it is their right to make his decision and people, even the government, has no right to interfere.

Another thing regarding Euthanasia,  traditional utilitarian justifications against killing do not apply. According to Singer, the reason that randomly killing innocent people is morally wrong for a rule utilitarian is that people would suffer considerable anxiety from knowing that their life could be terminated at any point in time.

Lastly, one must not choose Euthanasia easily because everyone must consider the objection that perhaps a sudden cure for an individual’s illness could be discovered. There are many newly discovered researches about remedies for terminally-ill patients. The reason why no one should lose their hopes.

It’s up to us whether we should use utilitarianism as the based for our beliefs in this issue.  Such a policy also answers a common objection to euthanasia —which people suffering from crippling pain are not rational enough to decide that they want to die.


Ethics is the practical application of moral philosophy. That is, given the moral context of what is good or bad, right or wrong. Each theory is based upon is based upon the viewpoint of the individual philosopher and maintains within itself its philosophical consistency.


Let us first scrutinize the Consequence-based theories. This kind of theory is based on its results judging whether that particular act is right or wrong. If the action is morally right, it is the one that will produce good consequence for a particular person.

So in this case, we have to weigh the outcomes. This leaves us a moral standard like this –a good action is the one that, as it appears, to maximize our happiness.

Consequentialist theorists are being criticize because it seems that they do not attribute any value to moral agents and such. Sometimes, our rights for humanity are violated. For example, John killed Jimmy. To make up for the loss, John will create a same individual whose characteristics and personality is the same as Jimmy’s. Let’s assume that Jimmy’s life is worth 20 utiles. Things will come into our mind like “Why can I not kill Jimmy, provided that I can also make another person whose life worth is 20 utiles or measurement of goodness too or more?” Still, we therefore say that the consequentialist theory gave us a wrong result, even though we augmented it so that it assigns intrinsic value to Jimmy himself and takes this value into account in determining one’s permissible courses of action.

Yes indeed, killing someone still violates the right to live of mankind.  In other words, any act that violates someone else’s rights has associated to a large net negative value of utiles which I personally think is cannot be replaced by someone.

The very important point of this particular issue is that the intrinsic cost of the act depends upon the nature of the action itself and not the consequence of it. The reason why killing Jimmy for no reason requires a greater intrinsic cost. However, if Jimmy is killed without anyone’s fault, it requires no intrinsic cost for anyone. Though the cost of life would still be.

Another thing, Consequentialism may also be criticized because it would blame people when they have made the world worse on accident. Some may feel that people can be rightly criticized for accidents, but others feel that accidents are exempt from moral consequences.


Objection to Consequentialism

  1. Doing the best consequences may violate the individual’s interests and rights.
  2. It is an impersonal theory concerned more with aggregative question of “how much” of some good there would be than with the distributive question “who” should have it.


Types of Consequence-based theories


The first one is Utilitarianism. This is a form of teleological theory that holds that an action is judged as good or bad in relation to the consequence, outcome, or end result that is derived from it. According to the utilitarian school of thought, right action is that which has great utility or usefulness. No action is, in itself either good or bad. Utilitarians hold that the only factors that make actions good or bad are the outcomes, or end results that are derived from them.

Though utilitarianism is a widely accepted ethical theory, there are a few problems inherent in its use. Utilitarianism doesn’t give that much thought to respect of persons. In fact, it is really possible that harm can be done just to achieve overall good.

For example, Joni needed some money for the operation of her sick mother. She pleaded everyone to help her but they just rejected her. So, Joni broke into her neighbor’s house and stole some money. She used this money for her mother to live longer. It just so happened that Joni promoted happiness to her by helping her dying mother to live longer. Nevertheless, she just made a sin of stealing. In this case, harm was done in the name of overall good.

Another problem is that calculating all the possible consequences is merely impossible.  It is because it requires us to assign values to every action that we will make –if it is beneficial or harmful. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate our actions and to predict the benefits and harms resulting from our course of act. We all have different thoughts and feelings. One may differ from another. One may think that this action is good. Others may think that is morally bad.  How do we go about comparing the value of money with, for example, the value of life, the value of time, or the value of human dignity? This is utterly dubious, I must say.

Situation Ethics

Next is Situation Ethics. This is a Christian ethical theory that was developed by Joseph Fletcher. There are three approaches: (1) Legalistic. With this approach one enters into every decision making situation encumbered with a whole apparatus of prefabricated rules and regulations. (2) Antinomianism. Over against legalism, as a sort of polar opposite, we can put antinomianism. This is the approach with which one enters into the decision making situation armed with no principles or maxims whatsoever, to say nothing of rules. (3) Situationism. A third approach, in between legalism and antinomianism unprincipledness, is situation ethics. According to this approach, all decisions should be based on love. The only absolute is love and love should be behind every intention.

Out of these three, I wanted to discuss Situationism approach. I chose this one because we discussed it in our Christian church by our very own church head in Church of God (COG), Pastor Anthony Velasco. He talks about the three types of Christian love: the philia, eros and agape.

(1)   Philia. Yes, we could recognize the word Philia from Philidelphia, a state in United States also known as brotherly love. This kind of love is friendship and affectionate kind of love. A naturally-occurring kind of love between families, friends, relatives and societies. Although philia is wonderful, it too is not reliable since it is also held captive by the shifting sands of situation as well as by ours and other’s perceptions and expectations. In the Bible, Philia is not the kind of word used to commend the word love.

(2)   Eros. This is the kind of love that I personally think teenagers and so is adults usually talk about. This type of love covers everything from the butterflies in our stomach and warm fuzzy feelings to strong sensual passion. It is when people smiles and say “I’m in love!”   Although Eros at times might make us feel like we are on cloud nine, it cannot provide a reliable basis for building a deep and meaningful relationship since it is so fickle and dependent upon perception and circumstances.

(3)   Agape. The “unconditional love.” The highest of all kind. This is the real meaning of love and was seen in the Bible. This is the kind of love we feel for our spouse, children and God. Agape was appropriated by Christians for use to express the unconditional love of God. Before agape love there was no other word to express such great love.

Link to Situation ethics is based on six fundamentals.

I do believe that Situational Ethics gives us freedom. In the way that we can choose what is the right and wrong thing to do. It gives us an authority to do something in our own will.

However, Situational ethics depends on the individual’s appraisal of situations. A person, even with the finest of  intentions, cannot foresee every consequence of an action, nor realize the number likely to be affected by it.

Critics say that Situational Ethics is quite vague. In the sense that everyone will say that “The most moral thing to do is the thing that I love.” But when you outlines what “The most loving thing to do is, it says that the most loving thing to do is the thing that is the most just.” And it goes around circles.

In an era today that some have characterized as “the age of self-interest,” utilitarianism and situational ethics is a powerful reminder that morality calls us to look beyond the self to the good of all.

  1. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on
    the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Great work!

  2. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a coworker who was conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for
    him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the
    meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this
    matter here on your website.

  3. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.

  4. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for chiropractor back pain

    • Donna Dutz
    • October 20th, 2014

    You get utilitarianism wrong. Hedonistic utilitarianism does not talk about rights or sovereignty over one’s body. Rather, each individual is a means for producing the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number. You seem to be confusing Kant with util. here at one point.

      • Jan Jomin
      • January 31st, 2016

      I thinks rights has to do with utilitarianism. on the last chapter of JSM’s utilitarianism he talks about the relationship of utilitarianism and justice..

      • Jim Delaneyu
      • April 30th, 2016

      That’s really helpful. This confused me too.

    • Jan Jomin
    • January 31st, 2016

    Can you give me more insights on how to use utilitarianism against euthanasia? I am writing a thesis which is entitled as A critique on Euthanasia as viewed on John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism… I badly need your suggestion and insights…Thank You… and by the way, this article is good…

    • John
    • June 6th, 2017

    amazing thanq so much!!!

    • shivangi
    • December 16th, 2017

    is there any way I can cite your website? There is no author listed and I would love to give you credit!

  1. November 23rd, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: