Understanding Utilitarianism, Euthanasia, and Ethical Theories

Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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Principle of Utility

The principle of utility states that actions or behaviors are right in so far as they promote happiness or pleasure, wrong as they tend to produce unhappiness or pain. Hence, utility is a teleological principle.

Act Utilitarianism

Act utilitarianism is a utilitarian theory of ethics which states that a person's act is morally right if and only if it produces the best possible results in that specific situation.

Rule Utilitarianism

Rule utilitarianism is a form of utilitarianism that says an action is right as it conforms to a rule that leads to the greatest good, or that 'the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an instance'.


Euthanasia (from Greek: εὐθανασία; 'good death': εὖ, eu; 'well' or 'good' – θάνατος, thanatos; 'death') is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.[1][2]

Active Euthanasia

Active euthanasia is when death is brought about by an act - for example when a person is killed by being given an overdose of pain-killers. Passive euthanasia is when death is brought about by an omission - i.e. when someone lets the person die.

Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards.

Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decision issued in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions

Casey v. Planned Parenthood

In Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992), the Supreme Court affirmed the basic ruling of Roe v. Wade that the state is prohibited from banning most abortions. Casey also ruled, however, that states may regulate abortions so as to protect the health of the mother and the life of the fetus, and may outlaw abortions of 'viable' fetuses. The abortion debates began in 1973, when the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade created a political and legal upheaval nationwide. Many states openly defied Roe by passing new laws that prohibited abortions. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, sought to circumvent Roe by imposing procedural hurdles upon women seeking abortions.

Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic value: is the belief that value is a non-relational characteristic of an object. This means that an object can be valuable or not, good or bad, without reference to who it is good or bad for, and without reference to the reason it is good or bad.

Instrumental Value

Instrumental value: Instrumental value is a type of extrinsic value because its value comes from outside itself. Something that is instrumentally valuable is valuable as a means to an end.

Normative Ethics

Normative ethics: is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.


Egoism: the doctrine that holds that individuals ought to do what is in their self-interest


Altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others

Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory: nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons' moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live.

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