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The Greatest Happiness Principle

People’s lives may be full of dubious issues and tense situation, solution of which usually requires critical and moral thinking. To take a moral stand is vitally important in any situation, because morality helps differentiate between good and bad, moral and immoral. As a matter of fact, there are different ethical theories that can be […]

People’s lives may be full of dubious issues and tense situation, solution of which usually requires critical and moral thinking. To take a moral stand is vitally important in any situation, because morality helps differentiate between good and bad, moral and immoral. As a matter of fact, there are different ethical theories that can be applied to the moral dilemmas or some ethical issues. Each ethical theory reflects the problem from different aspects and, as a result, either justifies or condemns it. At times, some ethical theories may be a contradictory in terms, for example the theory of virtue ethics and utilitarianism. The theory of virtue ethics analyses the problem only on surface, without delving into the consequences or reasons for the solution. On the other hand, the ethical theory of utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory, since it helps find a solution and make the right choice when analyzing the possible consequences of the moral dilemma. This essay will analyze how to apply the greatest happiness principle of utilitarianism to the moral dilemma of euthanasia and will be a considered as help with motivation letter .

While some ethical theories, such as virtue ethics, for instance, condemn euthanasia, the others, such as utilitarianism, can find justifiable reasons for it. According to the principle of utilitarianism, moral values are determined by personal benefit and satisfaction. It views moral as something that can bring the greatest happiness. The ethical theory changes traditional views that euthanasia is killing, sin, and an evil act by claiming that the end justifies the means. According to the principles of utilitarianism, if euthanasia causes general happiness, then it is good; if it does not bring any benefits and happiness, then it is bad and immoral.

Euthanasia is one of the controversial topics nowadays. On the one hand, even terminally ill patients have the right to live since there is always hope for the better. On the other hand, it may be more merciful towards a person suffering intolerable pains to perform euthanasia on him/her. One should judge in regards to a particular situation. Nevertheless, I think that euthanasia can be a manifestation of altruism in many ways and change a particular situation for the better. In many cases, people are mistaken when they analyze the issue of performing euthanasia, or assisted suicide, only from the perspective of the ill person. Actually, the problem involves not only the one who suffers from a particular illness, but also his/her relatives and friends. Usually, the topic of euthanasia has to deal with terminally ill patients, who have incurable illnesses or who undergo much suffering. Besides, euthanasia can be either active or passive. Active euthanasia is, for example, injection of some medication which causes immediate death of a patient in order to eliminate extreme pain or suffering. In this case, a patient can decide for himself/herself if he/she is ready for such a step. Passive euthanasia is performed mostly on unconscious patients who are living only on life support. In this case, doctors can only disconnect them from life-supporting machines or some kind of medication which only provide main organ functions. Euthanasia can be well justified from the utilitarian point of view when it brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people involved in a situation. For example, a person may be terminally ill with the last stage of cancer and may suffer from terrible pains. One can hardly say that such individual lives; rather, he/she merely exists. When a person has only little time to live and nothing can save him or her, it would be much more humane to deprive him/her and all the other people involved from such terrible suffering and perform euthanasia. Under such circumstances, a person may at least peacefully die. Thus, the greatest happiness principle in this situation means that both the terminally ill patient and his/her dearest people will be deprived of suffering. It is extremely painful for the relatives or friends watch a person dying in suffering, because it provides a detrimental effect on their mental health.

As a matter of fact, such moral dilemma is familiar to me. Some years ago, a relative of mine was diagnosed with cancer. The disease progressed rapidly and it was too late to do anything. The only thing that doctors could offer was medication that only supported the main body functions and slowed down the spread of the disease. With the help of such medication, my relative got only 6 months of normal life. After that period, there appeared many complications: her general state worsened and she began to suffer from terrible abdominal pains and bleedings. It was a serious challenge for the whole family to watch a dear one dying from cancer in pain. Doctors told that the pains would even get worse and the family needed to make a life-important decision – to leave everything the way it was or to perform euthanasia. The latter variant was chosen. From the utilitarian point of view, it was a clear manifestation of altruism and the general happiness principle, since it was most beneficial for my relative as well as for the whole family.

It must be concluded that utilitarianism proclaims the greatest happiness principle as a manifestation of altruism and as a moving force in finding solutions to ethical dilemmas. As a matter of fact, it is justifiable in situations, where the consequences of the performed action bring the greatest benefits to all the people involved.

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