From guest blogger, Julie.
Is there a moral difference between killing and letting die? I don’t know if I buy that you can “let someone die.” When you have the power to prevent someone’s death and you don’t intervene, you’re killing them.
Killing is defined as the act of causing someone’s death, especially deliberately. When you make the decision to allow the process of someone dying to continue, you are killing them. If you have time to think through your options: save them or watch them die, and you choose to watch them die, you have deliberately decided to end their life.
Take for example a victim of a car crash. You are the only one around. If you were to call 911, an ambulance would come and provide necessary medical care to save the victim. If you don’t call 911, the victim is sure to die a painful death. Your phone gets great service so you have complete capability to call for help. You decide you don’t want to call, are you still letting the victim die? It seems to me that you are causing the victim’s death, deliberately since you make the conscious decision to not call. That sounds a lot like killing.
Now let’s change the scenario slightly: unfortunately, your phone doesn’t get great service. Now you can’t help by calling 911. All you can do is watch the victim die a painful death… or you could end their suffering and allow them to finish their life without grueling pain. Does “letting die” seem to be the greater moral choice in this situation? Either way their life is going to end and you could help relieve some pain if you kill them.
What do you guys think? Is there a difference between “letting someone die” and killing them? Instinctually there seems to be a difference, but I just can’t find it. And how do you think this applies to the debate over euthanasia?