Evaluating an Argument Before beginning this paper, make sure that you have completed all of the Modules in our course and read over my feedback on Paper 2 and your Thesis/Objections Assignment carefully. It is also highly recommended that you have read LaFollette’s “Writing a Philosophy Paper” from Ethics in Practice: An Anthology. This paper is worth 15% of your grade and, as a result, will be graded out of 150 total points. Make sure to follow the following instructions and look at the associated rubric. Topic For your final paper, choose one of the articles you read on your applied ethics topic (animal rights, euthanasia, or global poverty). Explain the author’s position on your topic, then – given what you’ve learned in the course – evaluate the author’s argument. Specific Instructions for Structuring the Paper This paper should be organized as a typical essay with an Introduction and a Conclusion, as well as including Part I and Part II as follows: Part I: Explain the author's argument in the article that you’ve chosen. In his/her view, what is the correct position to have on the applied ethics issue you chose? What are the reasons that he/she gives in support of his/her view? Part II: Present a potential problem for the author's position. After presenting a potential objection to the argument, explain whether you think that the author's position is stronger than the criticism that you presented by doing one of the following. If you agree with the author's view, explain why the objection is not a problem for his/her view (i.e., respond to that objection on behalf of the author). If you disagree with the author's view, explain how the objection is problematic for his/her position. Grading I grade based on content, not length. That being said, you should aim for around 3-5 pages. If your paper is too short, you won’t have explained the argument or the objection fully. So, make sure to focus on answering each part of the paper topic. If your paper seems to be a bit long, make sure every word is necessary. You should be able to explain the concepts succinctly as well as clearly. This is not a research paper, so you should not need to use any sources outside the course materials. If you do use any sources, make sure you cite them properly.
Notes: Virtue Ethics & Euthanasia Foundations Annette C. Baier’s analysis of virtue is slightly different than that of Aristotle’s. Virtues, in her view, are traits “that contribute to a good climate of trust between people, when trust is taken to be acceptance of being, to some degree and in some respects, in another’s power” (p. 135). Aesculapius was the Greco-Roman god of healing and medicine, so when Baier discusses Aesculapian Virtues, she is discussing those virtues that are found “in trustworthy healers and will include due awareness of the power discrepancy that the doctor-patient relationship involves, the will to communicate appropriately with the patient, and to take timely action of various sorts” (135). Healing, for Baier, includes both restoring health and relieving suffering. This is an important thing to note when we are discussing euthanasia. Creating a Good Climate of Trust According to Baier, a trust includes a recognition that one is vulnerable in relation to another individual and confidence that the other’s power will not be used to harm the vulnerable person(s). All individuals
in a relationship together contribute to the climate of trust and mistrust, so Baier will discuss a range of healthcare roles and how their actions can create a healthy or unhealthy environment. A good climate of trust, in her view, is one in which all individuals are vulnerable to each other and, as a result, can be encouraged to trust each other (136). So, she thinks that we must empower the weaker individuals in the relationship, which involves recognizing their rights. In the medical world, this would involve: codes of patient rights patient advocates While patients are the weaker parties in this relationship, doctors also have rights against their patients. Because patients sometimes engage in malicious lawsuits, doctors need their own advocates (i.e., Medical Protection Society). Trustworthy Health Professional Baier states that a trustworthy health professional is a properly trained health professional who is competent to do what she is asked to do. But how do we verify that a doctor, for example, is properly trained and competent? One way is to have a trustworthy system of hospital administrators and government agencies responsible for verifying and recording health professionals' qualifications. We must also be sure to have enough health care workers to meet our needs. What counts as properly trained? Clearly, doctors must be trained to recognize the disease symptoms and be able to treat those symptoms. But what other skills must they have? Why is kind of retraining necessary? Well, it is not being realized that health professionals need communication skills and their scientific training and clinical know-how (137). This is especially important, according to Baier, for creating an atmosphere of trust. If one is subjected to testing that he or she does not understand, one will experience fear and potentially distrust and terror—one of the biggest complaints made by patients concerns poor communication. Patient Virtues While patience is a virtue in patients, perhaps, there is also some responsibility to protest or lodge complaints when things go wrong. They should communicate their fears and concerns as well as demonstrate patience and trust. According to Baier, “threats to sue do not improve mutual trust,” nor does being impatient and attempting to subvert the order of triage. Euthanasia & The Goal of Healing The saving of lives and care of patients has been considered the responsibility of health professionals – it is part of the Hippocratic oath. Relieving suffering is only considered their goal if it does not threaten health or life. Since health professionals' main goal is to save or prolong lives, it is not odd that medical associations oppose the legalization of voluntary euthanasia and “claim that it would be unethical of doctors to end their suffering patients’ lives” (141). Going back to the concept of trust, Baier states that we would not be able to trust a physician who was “overeager” to euthanize people. However, Baier argues that it is unethical to refuse to assist patients in ending their suffering. Suffering is not taken seriously enough. It is often treated with “patronizing disbelief” (see Baier’s examples on 141), and pain – migraine, menstrual, arthritis – is not given a high priority in medical research. It ought to be the focus of medicine to understand the pain and do their best to minimize it or end it. It is the role of health-care workers to relieve suffering and prolong life, Baier argues, and they should not have to consider the risk of prosecution when acting in this way. She states, The physician one can trust the one who will remind one how one can bring about one’s own death by exercising one’s right to refuse fluids, the one who does not have to risk prosecution if more active
assistance in dying is given, and the one who would so assist one, when one unambiguously and repeatedly request such assistance (143). Compassion is a virtue that everyone needs to have, according to Baier. To really consider the morality of euthanasia, we must first recognize a right to considerate treatment and – from health professionals – relief of pain. Baier discusses rights and virtues because, to be able to properly exercise virtue, we need changes in the law – which is the domain of legal rights. For doctors to efficiently make compassionate decisions and exercise truthfulness about their actions, we need legal change. Baier states the following: If medical professionals are to free themselves of the charge of prolonging the agony of the dying, they must be given the legal power to administer euthanasia on repeated serious patient requests. Only then will compassion become a fully functional virtue in the medical profession (152). Baier’s conclusion To have a humane medical profession and have a good climate of trust, we must allow physician-assisted death when requested by the patient, as long as this practice is protected against abuse of power. We cannot trust our doctors, according to Baier, until they are fully able to exercise compassion.
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