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Bio-Medical Ethics: Abortion and Euthanasia

Bio-Medical Ethics: Abortion and Euthanasia

Bio-medical ethics:

  • Bio-medical ethics is the application of ethical principles to medicine and biotechnology.
  • Two important Bio-medical ethical issues are ABORTION and EUTHANASIA.


  • The ethical discussion on Abortion (the termination of a pregnancy) may involve two important questions: 1. Whether it is ethically permissible for a woman to terminate her own pregnancy? 2. Whether it would be ethical for society to make laws about whether and when a woman can terminate a pregnancy?
  • Much of the debate over abortion revolves around what ethicists call personhood. To be a person is to possess a certain number of rights, in particular the right not to be killed. People who think abortion is unethical characterise themselves as pro-life.
  • The pro-life argument is that an embryo or foetus is a person with a right to life. It implies that even if a woman has a right over her own body she still should not be allowed to terminate a pregnancy.                                                                                Bio-Medical Ethics: Abortion and Euthanasia
  • Some pro-lifers believe that abortion is never ethically permissible, while others think that abortion is generally impermissible but may be permissible in cases of rape or a danger to the life of the mother. Thus, pro-life argument claims that abortion is unjust killing, so, it is unethical and society should pass laws prohibiting it.
  • People who believe that abortion in some cases can be ethically permissible are termed as pro-choice. The Pro-choice argument is that a woman has a right over her body and even if an embryo is a person, a woman still has the right to terminate a pregnancy in defence of her rights.
  • Some in this camp believe that abortion is always permissible; some believe that it is rarely permissible and others believe that even if abortion is unethical society still should not have laws against it.


  • Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending the life of someone who is suffering from an incurable illness or is in irreversible coma. In the last stages of a terminal illness, patients, who don’t want to live the rest of life in agonizing pain, may ask a doctor or family member to help them end their lives.
  • Euthanasia may be active or passive: active euthanasia is one, where a person physically helps a person end one’s life. For example, it may involve a doctor taking steps to end a patient’s life, such as prescribing a lethal medicine. In passive euthanasia, on the other hand, a person has no active role in ending life. In this case life sustaining treatment may be withdrawn.
  • Euthanasia may be voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary: Voluntary euthanasia denotes that a patient has actively consented to end his or her life. Non-voluntary euthanasia means that a person’s life is ended without knowledge of one’s wishes but according to the wishes of a person’s family. Involuntary euthanasia happens when a terminally ill person’s life is ended against that person’s wishes.                                                                                    Bio-Medical Ethics: Abortion and Euthanasia
  • Some ethicists maintain that passive voluntary or non-voluntary euthanasia in general may be ethically permissible, and that ethical problems with non-voluntary euthanasia can be avoided to a great extent through an advanced directive.
  • According to others, life is too precious to be sacrificed under coy circus however, in some cases life itself may become miserable with unbearable pain, in other words, life may be become akin to ‘living hell’. In the final stages of a terminal illness, a patient can be in so much pain that one may come to see ending the pain as preferable to living on for a short period of time. To deprive some one of this wish seems unusually cruel to many people. A person should be allowed to die with dignity rather than be forced to stay alive to the bitter end.
  • Someone seeking to commit suicide would be seen as mentally ill and in need of help, such a decision can be regarded as irrational. While contemplating suicide, a person may believe that one will never be happy again, but in reality pain often subsides.
  • However, the terminally ill patient often has the specific information that the future is indeed short and that the pain won’t subside. Such a decision cannot be termed irrational and it may be in sync with individual’s autonomy.

According to opponents of euthanasia, active euthanasia has another name- murder. They argue that physicians who help patients commit suicide will tarnish the medical profession and make people more afraid of doctors.                                                                                          Bio-Medical Ethics: Abortion and Euthanasia

However, they may not oppose passive euthanasia by distinguishing between killing a patient and merely letting him or her die. They maintain that it is ethically permissible to let a patient die but killing the patient is ethically problematic, since another person brings about death.




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