Suicide and Euthanasia

A Fictional Scenario Although only in her early thirties, Aida Alazar had already achieved a remarkable success at a major publishing house. She had been promoted to the post of a senior editor and had overseen the genesis of three best-selling novels, one of which was short-listed for a major prize (the Booker). She hoped to become an acclaimed author herself but with three relatively young children, she put her writing projects temporarily on hold. While her kids remained it home, she wanted to focus on raising them with her spouse, and she found this deeply rewarding. The family spent a good deal of time doing athletic activities of various kinds together. Aida especially loved winter sports and had the family go ice skating, snowboarding, or skiing whenever they could. While on the slopes during a family outing, Aida had a freak accident, and when she awoke in a hospital, she had “locked-in” syndrome. Her cognitive faculties remained intact: She remembered who she was and everything leading up to the incident, and she could understand what her spouse and healthcare providers said. But she was paralyzed below the neck and so almost completely immobile. The only muscles that remained under control involved her eyes. She could blink them and move them, and by doing this, she could communicate. She was provided with sophisticated computer technology that allowed her to use her eyes to pick out letters and common words. A synthesized voice then spoke for her. While the program was easy to use, communicating by means of it was excruciatingly slow. Aida found her condition thoroughly wretched, though she could not feel her body and was not in physical discomfort. Aida gave herself six months to see whether she might become reconciled to her situation. She spoke regularly with a psychiatrist and was prescribed, and took, anti-depressants. When the period drew to a close, she reached the conclusion that she did not want to live and that she would not change her mind about this. She regarded her situation as utterly degrading. The around-the-clock care that she required completely robbed her of privacy, and she was horrified by her total dependence on others. Her inability to care for her children – to cook for them, to help them prepare for bed or get up in the morning, to hold them, to assist with homework, to take them to school and extracurricular activities, and so on – weighed heavily on her, and she was utterly against becoming a burden to them and her spouse. She could not bear the thought of making them or herself an object of pity by going anywhere in public with them. The thought that she could never participate in any of the sports that had meant so much to her was horrendous. Work as an editor was, for all practical purposes, no longer open to her. She also could not imagine any interest whatsoever in writing for herself. As she saw it, to write, she would either have to imagine herself or others living in utterly different circumstances (which struck her as ridiculous) or she would have to write about living as she did now, which would be inviting others to pity her, and that she refused to do. After having giving the matter extended thought, one evening, after the children were in bed, Aida told her spouse that she did not want to live. She repeated this to her primary healthcare physician. She asked both for help with dying. Assignment Instructions Keeping in mind the moral theories that we have studied and relevant material from this unit, answer the following questions. To do well, provide ample evidence that you have an excellent handle on the material and that you have been thinking about it for yourself in a careful, critical way. Each answer should take800-1,000 words. The Questions 1. Explain what you take to be the strongest argument that can be given for providing Aida with some sort of assistance. Be sure to be clear about what sort of assistance would be provided. Then explain what you take to be the strongest criticism that could be raised against the reasoning in this argument, and explain how strong you think this criticism is. 2. Explain what you take to be the strongest argument that can be given against providing Aida with some sort of assistance. Be sure to be clear about what sort of assistance this argument opposes. Then explain what you take to be the strongest criticism that could be raised against the reasoning in this argument, and explain how strong you think this criticism is. Useful Information Each of your answers should take multiple, well-organized paragraphs. For the purposes of this assignment, do not worry about an introductory paragraph or a concluding one. Identify your resources by naming the author (or lead author) and providing the page number that contains the information you are using. No bibliography is required. Some Reminders: The best way to show that understand the material (and have been thinking carefully, critically, and for yourself) is to develop your answers in lots and lots and lots of (relevant) detail. Do not try to cover everything that looks relevant. Depth is more important than breadth. Since so much could potential be written about the case that you are discussing, different students might focus on different issues and produce equally good quasi-essays.

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