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J Med Ethics. 2008 Aug;34(8):636-8. doi: 10.1136/jme.2007.023382.

The ethics of killing and letting die: active and passive euthanasia.

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School of Law and Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK.


In their account of passive euthanasia, Garrard and Wilkinson present arguments that might lead one to overlook significant moral differences between killing and letting die. To kill is not the same as to let die. Similarly, there are significant differences between active and passive euthanasia. Our moral duties differ with regard to them. We are, in general, obliged to refrain from killing each and everyone. We do not have a similar obligation to try (or to continue to try) to prevent each and everyone from dying. In any case, to be morally obliged to persist in trying to prevent their deaths would be different from being morally obliged to refrain from killing all other people even if we had both obligations.

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