Philippa Foot’s Argument on Euthanasia

The issue of killing and letting die continues to attract debate among philosophers. While some argue for the existence of a moral difference between killing and letting die, others bring forth the argument that killing and letting die pose no vital difference. Research shows that the distinction between the two appears to have no moral significance even though its status remains unclear (Woollard, 2008). Thus, each philosopher bases their argument depending on their interpretation. Foot believes that an agent generates an outcome if the behavior is deemed to be part of the sequence leading to the particular outcome. He develops an argument that shows why Rachel denies the moral impact of the difference between killing and letting die by highlighting perspectives aligned to voluntary passive and active euthanasia. His works concentrate on voluntary passive and active and their moral acceptability.

Foot believes that each case determines if an action is right or wrong and not if killing or allowing someone to die is a moral action. His main point addresses the absence of a moral distinction between killing and letting someone die depending on the prevailing ground. Thus, it is intrinsically wrong to cause harm to another person than intentional actions meant to allow harm to occur. Foot believes that Racheal ignores rights, and this explains Racheal’s denial of the moral significance of the distinction between the two approaches. Foot supports his idea by highlighting that nonvoluntary active euthanasia violates rights to noninterference and is always a wrong action, while nonvoluntary passive euthanasia only interferes with a right to service and is only deemed wrong when one overrides the right.

Callahan’s Description of “Private Killing”

Callahan’s idea about ‘private killing’ revolves around a situation where a patient agrees with a party such as the healthcare provider to end his or her life. For example, patients can reach out to a doctor seeking to end their lives through an agreement between the two. The deal is always a private engagement and does not involve public authorities whatsoever. Callahan deems euthanasia as a private killing since it only requires two parties. The patient and the doctor play an essential role in the determination of life and death. According to Callahan, private killing is a wrong act considering it could make it an ‘acceptable killing’ in the social setting. It interferes with the right to life. Neither the doctor nor the patient has a right to terminate a life. Private killing thus affects the fundamental right to life.

Callahan believes that euthanasia is a form or private killing since it does not allow the participation of a third party. It qualifies as a form of suicide since care provides helps a patient to terminate their life (Callahan, 2002). There is no rationality in the private killing, and this makes it an undesirable practice. Legalizing it could attract the moss of massive lives considering more patients would be willing to liaise with doctors and other healthcare providers to end their lives. It is likely to become one of the preferable death solutions at the community level. Callahan believes that suicide is a poor decision and solution for prevailing challenges and tribulations evident in the contemporary setting. Ending one’s life affects the fundamental respect and violation of human rights. Notably, it also leaves other family members and friends suffering from grief due to the loss of a loved one. Callahan views euthanasia as an approach that does not provide relief often thought to be the solution for an unhappy life and alleviation of personal challenges.



Callahan, D. (2002). The reason, self-determination and physician-assisted suicide.

Woollard, F. (2008). Doing and allowing, threats and sequences. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 89(2), 261-277.

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