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Theories of utilitarianism and deontology to doctor-assisted suicide

Theoriesof utilitarianism and deontology to doctor-assisted suicide

Doctor’sassisted suicide is a medical practice which allows physicians tooffer lethal medications or prescription to critically ill patients.In states where the practice is allowed, registered doctors can onlycarry it out when it has been confirmed that the patient has lessthan six months to live and there is no hope of recovery. Thepractice is called doctor`s assisted suicide because physiciansadminister lethal prescriptions with the aim of hastening death andrelieving the patient extreme pain. There has been a lot ofcontroversies as to whether euthanasia should be legalized or banned.This essay will use deontology and utilitarianism theory inaddressing the issue of physically assisted suicide.


Accordingto deontological theory, choices or actions cannot be justifiedbecause of their outcome. This is irrespective of whether the resultis negative or positive. Additionally, this means that an individualcannot make unlawful preference with the belief that wrongalternative will prevent suffering. The theory affirms that adecision is considered right or wrong based on how it conform toestablished ethical standards (Nathan, 2015). An action or decisionwill, therefore, be good if it is conforming to societal and moralstandards in different professions and society.

Thephilosopher Immanuel Kant is accredited with the development ofdeontological perspective. According to him, what determine goodnessin all cases is the will that makes an individual use them. A goodexample of this is demonstrated through characters such as courage.The trait is not good when someone has the courage to do evil thingsor hurt those around him or her. The same applies to other traitssuch as intelligence. Deontologists believe that a right action isbetter than a good one. Actions that are taken because they are goodbut not right are inappropriate.

ImmanuelKant argued that good will is only good because of virtue and notbecause of its proposed attainment. Another interpretation of theabove statement is that any deed that a person takes should befollowing the right results or outcome irrespective of the resultthat it may produce (O`Gorman, Macken, Cullen, Dunne &amp Higgins,2013). In the long run, an action can be considered right even if theresult does not yield any good outcome especially if it is permitted.Additionally, actions can also be right if the person who undertookthe act was not obliged and it is legalized.

Regardinghow the theory relates to euthanasia, it is evident that ImmanuelKant was not happy that the practice should be legalized orencouraged irrespective of the situation. According to deontologists,man has no right to formulate the fate of another person. Doctor`sassisted suicide is as a result of many factors with the main aimbeing to relieve the patient of his or her sufferings when it hasbeen approved that there is no hope of recovery. Deontologist theoryargues that an individual cannot make an illegal action because he orshe is trying to bring out good outcomes (O`Gorman, Macken, Cullen,Dunne &amp Higgins, 2013). This means that it is wrong for aphysician to help put an end to a patient’s life barely because thedoctor sympathizes with those who are terminally ill.

Basedon Immanuel Kant’s deontology theory, the act of killing is illegaland should never be allowed irrespective of the intention of thedoctor. However, if the patient approves it, the physician can beallowed to carry out the procedure. Doctors are not allowed to carryout euthanasia because the patient is experiencing pain unless thesick person personally requests for such services. Doctors can alsodecline from assisting the ill patient from committing suicide if heor she is not ready to tolerate immorality which is caused by the actof killing. In conclusion, neither the patient nor the doctor shouldforce one another into agreeing to euthanasia.


Utilitarianismtheory holds that the right action is always that which tend toproduce the best outcome or consequences. According to John StuartMill, an action is right if the resulting impacts promote happinessand wrong if it encourages the reverse (Thompson,2015).He further defines happiness as the absence of pain and presence ofpleasure. Additionally, pleasure tends to differ in quantity andquality. As a result, happiness is the basis of morality and thatpeople do not desire anything apart else.

Accordingto utilitarianism all actions and desires aim to achieve happiness.This is irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. According tothe greatest happiness principle, if a person is considering his orher own good or that of someone else, he or she ought to act in a waythat exempts them from pain by encouraging happiness (Thompson,2015).This means that, according to utilitarianism, when an individual ispresented with more than two choices, a utilitarian should choose theaction that benefits the greatest number of people. A good example ofthe above statement is seen in Middle-East countries that havenumerous episodes of wars. In such situations, suicide bombers tendto believe that if they sacrifice their lives, their family tend tobenefit because they will be compensated.

Interms of the theory relation to the issue of doctor`s assistedsuicide, it is evident that utilitarianism support mercy killingbecause it pursues happiness for the sick patients and their friendsand relatives. In countries where euthanasia has been legalized, thelaw permit such practices only when it has been confirmed that thereare no other treatment options and the patient is experiencing a lotof pain. In such a case, utilitarianism theory allows mercy killingbecause it will bring an end to the patient`s suffering (Thompson,2015).On the other hand, there has been an argument that there have beencases where organs have been harvested from the terminally illpatients and used to save more lives bringing happiness to thegeneral population.

Utilitarianismtheory also supports physician`s assisted suicide because otherreasons for its legalizations are aimed at ensuring happiness to thesick patient and their friends and relatives. Terminally illpatients, for like those who have cancer undergo serious treatmentsand some can drain their body energy (Manos,Gkika, Euthimiou, Lola, Potonos, Kokkori &amp Angel, 2015).Repeated exposure to harmful rays and drugs with adverse side effectscan cause emotional, physical and psychological pain. When it hasbeen approved that the chances or recovery are none and the patienthas approved mercy killing, proceeding with the act will allow thesick person to die with dignity.


Itis evident that the issue of euthanasia require critical thinking andanalysis so that citizens can make informed decisions whether itshould be legalized or not. Based on deontological theory, thepractice should be voluntary and doctors have the freedom to chooseto carry it out the produce or refrain. According to deontologicaltheory, the ultimate decision lies with both the patient and thephysician. Consequently, utilitarianism theory tends to approve mercykilling if the consequences of such actions are happiness andpleasure. Utilitarian support mercy killing because it saves theterminally ill patient from his or her miseries and also ensures thatthey die a dignified death. Additionally, since a lot of money isusually spent in treating terminally ill patients even if it is clearthat there is no chance of recovery, such money can be put intobetter use bringing happiness to the rest of the family members.


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O`Gorman,C. S., Macken, A. P., Cullen, W., Dunne, C., &amp Higgins, M. F.(2013). What is the difference between deontological andconsequentialist theories of medical ethics? Irish Medical Journal.

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