Killing vs Letting Die
Killing and letting die are phrases that are used in the medical profession, to refer to the act of euthanasia. Doctors and nurses have always felt uneasy about having to pull the plug as it is called in the medical fraternity to let a patient die when he or she is irrevocably ill, and there is no chance of a revival. In either case of a passive or active euthanasia, there is a loss of life. It is confusing to understand the difference between killing and letting die as in both cases there is a loss of human life. This article attempts to highlight the differences between killing and letting die.
Is it somewhat better to let someone die than to kill him? It appears that it certainly is as we allow people to die when there is a natural disaster as when we fail to donate money for relief of people struck with an earthquake or draught. There are many of us who feel somewhat guilty though the feeling is still much better than when one considers himself a murderer.
If there is a patient who is terminally ill and wants to die with dignity, the doctor is permitted to allow him to die. Of course, this is an instance of letting a patent die on his own will and accord. But when the doctor is required to give the patient a lethal injection or a pill to swallow to die, it is an instance where the doctor has helped in the killing of the patient. Even removal of a lifesaving machine that substitutes as an organ of the patient constitutes as active euthanasia and the killing of the patient. Many people say that the only difference between the two instances is what we feel when we hear about them. We feel more guilty when we are responsible for causing a death rather than when someone else has pulled the plug. The same holds true for cases where we let someone die.
What is the difference between Killing and Letting Die?
• We feel we have killed a person when we have caused the death, no matter howsoever terminally ill the patient may have been.
• On the other hand, there is no such guilt feeling when we have merely let a person die. We are not blameworthy when we have let a patient die, but there is a lot of guilt when we are the person who has pulled the proverbial plug.
• The cause of death, when a patient has been left to die, is his underlying disease, whereas it is the physician who removed a lifesaving machine in the case of active euthanasia.