In the Module 2 essay, I continue my thought process from Module 1, very briefly addressing the right to die for the elderly under the natural law theory, altruism, and ethical egoism.
Natural Law: The theory of natural law emphasizes morality based on the rights and wrongs of human actions rather than the consequences of those actions. As Thomas Aquinas said, “naturalism is the elementary idea that good be done and evil avoided” (MacKenzie, 2009). One of the issues with this theory is the inability to identify the quintessential human nature representative of morality. Furthermore, it “provides no room for maneuvering tough decisions, such as end-of-life choices” (MacKenzie, 2009). This is relevant to present-day medical ethics as an evolving and aging society challenges the legality and morality of healthcare refusing to honor their wishes allowing them to die on their terms. In this scenario, who has the moral authority to determine if one’s choice to die is right or wrong?
Altruism: The theory of altruism holds that individuals act in a manner that supersedes their own desires placing the needs of others first. If this theory were true, an altruistic physician would allow and assist their patient in their desire to die. Conversely, an altruistic patient would not knowingly compromise the medical ethics of a physician by making such a request. This vignette is stuck in a hopeless cycle. Altruism is not an action based on responsibility, rather it is a noncompulsory, selfless action. Glannon (2002) points out, “Physicians are not and cannot be altruistic in their daily encounters with patients precisely because they are acting within a professional relationship, and professionalism entails obligations…Physicians have a responsibility to act in the best interest of patients.” Therefore, based on the requirements and obligations of one’s professional duty (specifically a physician), altruism cannot be true.
It is important to note that even when we choose to help others unselfishly, we are making a decision based on our feelings; this alone eliminates our action as altruistic.
Ethical Egoism: Ethical egoism is a normative theory in which one’s actions are based on self-interest, that the only responsibility we have is to ourselves, and therefore morally right. This theory compliments and supports autonomy and a person’s right to die. The argument to a medical ethics committee would state that under ethical egoism, each person is in control of their own life and may act upon it as they see fit. Morally, they are only obligated to themselves, not those who are treating them, and therefore denying their wish to die is immoral.
An issue with this theory, however, is nobody else matters. How can society operate under a premise where each person is only vested in themselves? Morality poses another issue as it is both individualistic and societal with each dependent on the other. Ethical egoism would disregard this relationship and each person would have their sense of morality (good or bad). l
Glannon W. and Ross, L. (2002, April 1). Are doctors altruistic? Journal of Medical Ethics 2002, 28:68-69. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jme.28.2.68
MacKenzie , C. Ronald. (2009, July 21). What would a good doctor do? Reflections on the ethics of medicine. HSS Journal: The Musculoskeletal Journal of Hospital for Special Surgery, 5(2), 196-9. Retrieved from doi:10.1007/s11420-009-9126-7.
Shafer-Landau, Russ. (2015). The fundamentals of ethics. New York:Oxford University Press.