This week, the essay took its springing point from one of our online lectures, which outlined an argument for claiming that there is an important difference between "killing" and "letting die":
act, where the resulting death is not the primary goal.” Construct an argument that shows either that 1) this is not a defining difference between “killing” and “letting die”; or 2) that it is not an ethically important difference; or both. (Critical reasoning)
I gave it a whirl, and it wasn't the easiest paper to write, since for the most part I agree with the prompting statement. A lot of old-school physicians would probably agree wholeheartedly with the idea that there's no difference between killing someone and letting them die. This was actually the opinion of a doctor we saw in a video from the 70s who refused for more than a year to allow a total-body-burn victim to refuse treatment and die. That doctor very clearly said that by allowing his patient to refuse treatment and die rather than doing the procedures of which he was capable, he would effectively be murdering his patient. He never considered the concept, as explained by the interview with his patient in the same video, that there are worse things to experience than death. There's a big difference in culture between medicine today and medicine 40 years ago. Back then, doctors more regularly had greater power to do everything they could to save a patient than we do today. Patient autonomy is much more highly valued in today's medical culture than it was a while ago. SO, I tried to write my article as though it were from the viewpoint of that old-school physician.
Regardless, I constantly felt like my essay was full of holes even as I was writing it - holes that, if I were actually arguing against what I was writing, I would gladly exploit. I think this was the point of the experience, since given that most doctors have to "let die" all the time, most doctors would probably agree that there is an ethically important difference between that and "killing." Anyway, here is the essay I ended up turning in. I'm really not looking for comments on this post - this is more for my recollection years from now about what kinds of things we did in Ethics class. :)