Imagine with me the following scenario: You are resting peacefully at your home, when all of a sudden you hear a loud bang. You rush outside to see what happened, and across the street is a wrecked car with a man trapped inside. As you approach the car to offer help, it becomes engulfed in flames. The man is fully conscious, but unable to escape. You’ve called 911, but it will be 15 minutes before they are able to arrive with a fire truck and the jaws of life. The man is burning before your eyes with no chance of survival, and you hear his blood curdling cries from within the car: “Shoot me, please! Shoot me! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”
You own a gun, and have the means to honor this man’s request. The choice is yours: Do nothing, and watch this man burn to death in excruciating pain for the next 10 minutes, or get your gun, and shoot the man to hasten his death to avoid the unbearable suffering. What would you do?
Once you have answered this question, scroll down below for an additional question.
Euthanasia is the practice of actively and purposely killing an individual because they are experiencing some form of unbearable suffering. Think, for example, of the person with terminal bone cancer whose body is wracked with pain. If you were to meet such a person, and they requested that you kill them to end their suffering, would you do it?
If you would kill the man in the car, but not the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios. Likewise, if you would not kill the man in the car, but would kill the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios.