Euthanasia is a controversial subject, not only because there are many different moral dilemmas associated with it, but also in what constitutes its definition. At the extreme ends of disagreement, advocates say euthanasia is a good, or merciful, death. Opposites of euthanasia say it is a fancy word for murder. The author James Rachels provides a clear argument in defense of euthanasia in his article, The Morality of Euthanasia.
While Richard Doerflinger provides a different approach to the issue of euthanasia, with his essay Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life, presenting a pro-life argument elaborately illustrated with counter-arguments. Although both authors provide adequate evidence to state their claims, they dont use the same methods of proving their views. Rachels tends to use deductive reasoning of several principals of Utilitarianism and emotion based on life experinces, while Doerflinger uses the counter-offensive approach.
It becomes clear that Doerflingers arguments are more influential than Rachels, yet there are certain points and instances where both philosophers fail to be convincing. The two authors in connection with each other can be compared to two brave lawyers who stand in front of the jury trying to build a good solid argument in order to successfully convince the jury and everyone else present. Yet which is the best way to precede, in order to generate this solid argument? What is the purpose of generating such an argument?
Both authors rely on their solid arguments and share the same ultimate goal to capture and convince the reader, therefore it can be said that whoever generates the best argument, will achieve the victory of public opinion. Authors who use good arguments also provide evidence to prove their contentions. This may involve the usage of a believe system, such as Utilitarianism, to prove certain arguments. Another method can be the usage of actual life examples or stories, which create strong feelings of emotion capturing the reader.
Finally, an author can also disprove the opposing view in order to strengthen his own main argument. All of the aforementioned points, especially the last one, will help generate a good argument and also shape the means of a debate, which is more advanced than just an argument because it deals with opposing views. Overall Rachels uses a logical approach to the subject of euthanasia. His argument begins with a gripping introduction of an individual who has undergone great suffering not for the sake of indulging in gory details but to give a clear idea of the kind of suffering we are talking about (Rachels p192).
Following his introduction, Rachels presents a supporting belief by adding a Utilitarian view. He states several points about the Utilitarian view and is also careful to cover why it is not entirely viable when applied to euthanasia by exemplifying Suppose a person is leading a miserable life (p193). Although the Utilitarian perspective to the argument is very insightful, and applicable to the topic of euthanasia, Rachels fails to realize that by doing this he pushes himself away from other relevant arguments. Once he has done this he must also conclude his argument with the same generalization.
He does achieve this in an opinionated manner by stating a modified Utilitarian contention and then ties it back to his first example of Jack. Rachels method was effective because he presents a possible formula for moral euthanasia, but becomes over generalized, and in the process losses the opportunity to address any opposing views of the subject, namely those at question in the setting of an American society. Doerflingers argument stands in contrast to Rachels not only because of the position Doerflinger takes on the issue, but also by the technique in which he address it.
Doerflinger does mention the issues at question in the setting of an American society. His argument begins with a clear standpoint on euthanasia and then he takes a seemingly digressive direction by pointing out that debate tends to dwell not on the wrongness of the act as such but on what may follow from its acceptance(p195). He continues his argument by declaring that these slippery slopes need to be discussed. This method of addressing slippery slopes brings the debate to another setting; it brings the debate to focus in a more professional manner and sounds more convincing.
One can almost say that refuting the vagueness of assisted suicide versus respect for life and the values of life versus freedom engages the arguments into a higher debate, therefore sounding more convincing. The targeting of attorney Robert Risley and Derek Humphry of the Hemlock Society was an effective way of defending his argument as well, because in a sense Doerflinger was refuting the representatives of the opposition, thus combating the issue at large. The final body of Doerflingers argument addresses several issues surrounding the Loose Cannons of euthanasia.
He concentrates on specific points that are potentially disastrous assuming euthanasia was to be acceptable, for example the crisis in health costs, prejudice against citizens with disabilities, and the expanded definition of terminal illness. Doerflingers conclusion is important to mention because he is careful to point out that although each loose cannon or slippery slope is not conclusive, the collective force provides a serious case against taking the irreversible step of sanctioning assisted suicide(p203).
And what is even more convincing, especially following Rachels argument, is the fact that Doerflinger contradicts Rachels style indirectly by stating If the strict philosophical case on behalf of rational suicide lacks coherence, the pragmatic claim that its acceptance would be a social benefit lack grounding in history or common sense(p203). Although, Rachels Utilitarian reasoning is very comprehensive and logical, it fails to address the slippery slopes of Doerflingers argument. Regardless of the material or bias, there are also a few instances where Doerflingers argument didnt sound convincing.
Doerflingers introduction draws attention to a point that cant be overlooked. By taking a religious standpoint on the issue, one cant ignore the fact that this motion immediately initiates even the smallest bias against Doerflinger. Religion has a history of being uncompromising, so its difficult to actually debate with predetermined notions. Im not stating that Doerflinger is an extremist; Im mentioning that he comes from a religious perspective, which creates favoritism, therefore devaluing the flexibility of his arguments.
When reading and analyzing the works of these two clever men concerning the issue of euthanasia, the more convincing argument is that of Doerflinger. In opposition to Rachels view explaining why euthanasia should be practiced in our society, Doerflinger describes several important issues that need to be dealt with before taking the wrong steps end putting an end to human life. Doerflingers approach using the slippery slopes is far more effective than Rachels argument because it follows a debate rather than making a personal statement based more on emotion.