Can Hegel??™s social ethics make a substantial contribution to the Euthanasia debate
According to Hegel, we should all live in terms of ???sittlichkeit??™ or ???the idea of freedoms.., the concept of freedom developed into the existing world and nature of self consciousness??™ (142). This means living by subjective freedom; ethical freedom and will allowing one to be fully in line and aware of objective duties. Where can Euthanasia possibly fit into ethical and moral law The debate surrounding Euthanasia is one that has to be approached from many angles. We shall be exploring it from ethical, moral and religious stances. To fully understand the issues of Euthanasia we first must both explore and define, in terms of its role in this debate, how we are to view it. This means that we must look at all differing kinds of Euthanasia and cite examples from history and then apply Hegel??™s dialectic to each of them and see if Hegel??™s ethics can make a substantial contribution to our judgment of such a contentious issue.
The word Euthanasia, Greek in origin, means quite literally ???good death. Epicurean philosophers believed that after one stopped caring for life we are entitled to end it whether through suicide or Euthanasia. However as thinking progressed in both religious terms and in terms of Natural Law it started to seem less and less justifiable. In religious terms life is seen as God??™s most precious gift to the individual; the physical manifestation of the soul. Who are we to throw that gift away This is a simplified version of the Religious argument. Only God may take way that which He has given. Natural LAW
Let us define exactly what we mean by Euthanasia. In most cases Euthanasia is the killing of an individual to alleviate suffering or to shorten it. The most ethical example of Euthanasia would be that of Passive Euthanasia. This is when one simply removes that which is prolonging the human life and in probable terms suffering. This could be anything from drugs to an actual life support machine. This is death by deprivation rather than the more hands on ???Active Euthanasia??™. Active Euthanasia is death caused by positive human intervention such as an injection. This can be seen as slightly less ethically sound as it is not the same as a natural death incurred by a lack of necessary drugs or life support. Many argue that when it reaches the stage where Euthanasia is often even eluded to those that are suffering are nothing more than shallow imitations of life, especially those who are being kept alive through artificial respiration and other forms of life support. Then we have three further divides: Voluntary, Non-Voluntary and Involuntary Euthanasia. Voluntary Euthanasia occurs when the party concerned elects to die and can fully grasp what they are asking for. Non-Voluntary is when family members or medical professionals, in lieu of the party concerned, due to mental deficiency so bad that they can no comprehend the question of living, undertake the choice or living in a vegetative state. Finally, Involuntary Euthanasia, which is doubtless akin to murder and never justifiable on any terms, is to kill the person involved against their wishes.
The Nazi regime??™s Euthanasia program was nothing more than a Euphemistic name for a clandestine mass murder and cleanse of the German society. Its roots could be found in the soil of eugenics rather than in the ???good death??? of Euthanasia. The Germans saw their euthanasia program as a way of ridding the great state of Germany of the burden of the ???useless eaters??? as Goebbels described them; all those who were too handicapped either mentally or physically to work. This was Involuntary ???Euthanasia??™ on an unprecedented scale. They believed they were perfectly within their rights to ???weed out the genetically inferior??? to make a more fertile Germany for Tomorrow??™s generation. This is often the first thing that comes to people??™s minds when Euthanasia is uttered. I believe the contentious nature of the topic is that it is almost impossible to regulate a legal Euthanasia program. What ethical boundaries and limits can one put in place and enforce Should it be a similar system to that which governs abortion The problem when contrasting abortion to Euthanasia, although similar in their moral controversy, is that the nature of Euthanasia is not as linear. One can not just place an age limit to the legal maximum age.