Physicians have disagreed for years about whether they should be involved in capital punishment of convicted criminals. Some physicians vigorously support participation, often arguing that organs should first be removed for transplantation. One frequent objection to capital punishment is that sometimes techniques don‘t work the first time, resulting in lingering, painful deaths. If physicians would guarantee that a patient would not die in such a way, they would gain the trust of some patients.
For any kind of killing, some physicians favour the creation of ―designated killer‖ technicians. This would free physicians from the taint of killing, keeping their image pure and their hands clean. But is this workable? Insofar as the designated killers are mere technicians, what prevents them from abusing their role? Wouldn‘t it be better for physicians, torn between saving life and honouring patients‘ wishes, to be reluctant killers? Wouldn‘t physicians know best what to do if something went wrong?
Many physicians paradoxically endorse mercy killing but refuse to do it themselves. Nor do they think other physicians should kill. Physicians who support mercy killing but who don‘t want physicians to kill commonly emphasize the importance of maintaining the role of the physician as a healer and preserver of life. One poll of American physicians showed 60 percent favouring euthanasia but less than half would perform it themselves. To such physicians, taking life radically conflicts with the symbolic image of physicians. Such conflict, they say, destroys trust in physicians.
Discussing this problem of designated killers in 1988, New England Journal of Medicine editor Marcia Angell called the idea ―an unsavoury prospect.‖ She suggested that mercy killing may one day be the end point of a continuum of good patient care. She asks how any physician can excuse himself from this most basic notion? Dr. Angell concluded, ―Perhaps, also, those who favour legalizing euthanasia but would not perform it should rethink their position.‖
Dr. Angell implies that it is hypocritical to favour mercy killing but would be unwilling to perform it. Is this true? There are at least two schools of thought. Some thinkers believe that if one favours, say, meat-eating, one should be willing to kill and prepare animals for eating oneself. Others conclude differently, seeing no reason why each person who favours a position must be willing to implement it.
Must you be willing to kill a serial murderer to favour capital punishment? Critics say one must. Being face-to-face with one‘s victims creates basic moral qualms and such moral restraints are important to respect. In Stanley Milgram‘s studies on obedience, naive subjects under an experimenter‘s control were dramatically less willing to inflict injury as the victims became closer to subjects under study. In contrast, as the consequences of actions became more remote, such as by pressing a switch which released a bomb on an unseen, unknown populace, it became easier to inflict injury
3. According not necessarily to the author, but to those in favour of euthanasia specifically, what is a potentially negative aspect of the use of ―designated killers?‖
A. They would disrupt the continuum of patient care provided by a physician.
B. They might release physicians from an association with death.
C. Their use might prevent lingering, painful deaths.
D. The prescription of euthanasia may become more prevalent as physicians are removed from the act itself.
E. They might not be as qualified as the actual doctors
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