Bioethics is the study of moral values as they apply to medicine in clinical settings. Two very relevant and controversial ethical issues in medicine and science today are Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) and euthanasia.
The difference between the two is simple: PAS is the person doing the actual killing, only assisted by the doctor, whereas euthanasia is the doctor doing the killing. Two different people are physically doing the killing with the same intention behind the act in each case—to end a person’s life who has given extended consent, experiencing deep pain, without a valuable future, and will die in the near future, regardless of any treatment. The official position of the World Medical Association is: "Physicians-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically. However, the right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient and the physician does not act unethically even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient.” I agree with the consistency of the position—that BOTH cases are seen as morally impermissible; however, I disagree with the direction of their position. What is our reasoning, morally speaking (and for those with religious beliefs—religious reasons), for arguing that these two acts are always wrong.
Let me propose a thought experiment. Imagine you are a soldier at war, fighting for your country. You see your brother, your best friend and partner in crime, lying in the dirt, grasping for air. You notice that he has both legs chopped off, a bullet in his neck, in which it is only a matter of time before he dies, a slow, painful death. You say your goodbyes. He asks you to shoot him in a place he will instantly die in order to surpass the suffering that is inevitably already occurring and ahead. Would this be a “wrongful” act of killing? Would it be morally impermissible for you to grant his wishes? What would be the alternative? Let your brother you care so much about suffer even greater pain? Would it be justifiable if he shoots himself, making him reach over for the gun when that is the last place he wants to exert any energy left into. Or, would you use your best moral discernment at that moment, knowing killing him is probably the best option, allowing him to go to a place where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, saving him from going through the trouble of having to do it himself.
What position do the rest of you take? Is it possible to view one of these as ethical and the other as unethical?