Chapter 10 : Care of the Dying


Section 4. Readings

J. Gay-Williams: The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia

1. it is against Nature

2. It is against Self Interest

mistaken diagnosis

chance of cure

pessimism- self defeating

3. Practical Effects

a. Dr's and RN's are committed to saving lives. They would be corrupted to think that there are occasions when the person (Patient) is better off dead.

b. Slippery Slope!!-

from Self Administered to Other Administered

from Voluntary to non-voluntary

from for the benefit of the person to the benefit of others, society, humankind

Today we considered one way of classifying different kinds of euthanasia.

Outline by  Don Berkich,  University of Texas, Corpus Christi (by permission)

The article, by Gay-Williams, presents what might be called the 'Traditional View' of euthanasia and the standard arguments against it.

It is easy to show that the standard arguments against the traditional view of euthanasia are unsound since each argument clearly has at least one, and in some cases more than one, false premise. We conclude that Gay-Williams gives us no reason to think that other-administered voluntary active euthanasia is morally impermissible. You should be sure that you are able to clearly explain why each of Gay-Williams' arguments are unsound.

What we learn from Gay-Williams is that the standard arguments are worthless.

Gay-Williams does us the favor of spelling out what he means by 'euthanasia'. Of course, his definition is rather narrow. But it suffices to frame his arguments.


A Definition of Euthanasia:




Person X commits euthanasia on Person Y iff





i. X takes the life of Y






ii. Y is suffering from a disease or injury from which Y is not expected to recover






iii. the action of X's taking Y's life is deliberate and intentional




Gay-Williams gives three arguments to show that all instances of Euthanasia are morally wrong as he defines 'Euthanasia'.

The Argument from Nature:








All euthansia is acting against our human nature.



All acting against our human nature is a denial of our human dignity.



All denial of our human dignity is morally wrong.



All euthanasia is morally wrong.



The Argument from Self-Interest:








All euthanasia is action containing the possibility that we will work against our own interests.



All action containing the possibility that we will work against our own interests is morally wrong.



All euthanasia is morally wrong.



The Argument from Practical Effects:








All cases of euthanasia are cases that could have a corrupting influence on doctors and nurses.



All cases that could have a corrupting influence on doctors and nurses are morally wrong.



All cases of euthanasia are morally wrong.


Unfortunately for Gay-Williams, it is a fairly trivial matter to show that each of these arguments is unsound. I leave it as an exercise for you to show that at least one premise of each argument is false by supplying a counter-example.







Return to the readings section of the chapter by clicking here> readings.

Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.

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