How do we distinguish right from wrong? The fact of the matter is, we truly can’t. Each individual has his or her own moral compass that guides their behavior, leading them to choose whether or not an act is good or bad, ethical or unethical, lawful or illicit.
Warfare is often cited as bringing the worst of us into play, that hidden evil within every one of us. Even so, and as it may depending on the experience, knowledge, and sympathetic audience of the arguing party. The devil is but the opposing god of the beliefs of the other.
Religion aside, and damn me – in fact, god damn me as war and politics are the last places for religious nonsense. Asides from the fact that wars, when not for resources are bent upon quelling a violent uprising of; pick any religion’s plight to slaughter non-believers for their god of peace and understanding. That’s right, killing people for an omnipotent, invisible, and make believe friend in the sky is OK. Meanwhile, if you get caught dropping a round in a friend or enemy who just lost everything below their waist; that is wrong.
Who gave anyone the third party rights to judge such an act of mercy? While culling for belief, defense, religion, and resource are just fine. Albeit, and unbeknownst to most, is that many of us who truly face death as a way of life have a code, and it is not unspoken. To one another we talk about what may happen while we are out in the wilds, and there are ways that we do not want to live. And yes, that is despite the wishes that you may want us home no matter what. Home as a piece of meat for a life of, to death — misery. That’s foolishly selfish, and incompetent on levels which will drain the life from and financially ruin those involved. A staunch reality that typically leaves the wounded warrior alone in the end.
Volunteer at a VA hospital sometime and talk to those fractured by war, now forgotten by their loved ones who once held so much love and promise . . . All a distant memory.
There are many amongst of us who stand firm in front of death, but do not wish to continue life as an invalid, paraplegic, or even as a burden to drag on through life, miserable to death. Such a life is worse than death, and yes, even those with families ask to not be delivered home in such a way. All of these people are brave and selfless in my book, as they are those who would leave this world proudly and not hinder the lives of their loved ones. I was also one who has also asked for death versus treatment for debilitating wounds.
Despite the pure bravado, outrage, and speculation. For me, it has always raised deeper issues and has acted as an atonement, guidepost, and measuring staff to my own morality. As well as a testament to the dirty reality of war and those who fantasize about it and pretend to have been part of something beyond themselves.
In my opinion, any idiot can play door kicker and brag at the bar on his fun time while training, or facing limited resistance. Although to me, no man with a conscious cannot study or at least have reflected upon the larger questions of life, order, and society after experiencing on-going death. Some can, and they’re called psychopaths and you don’t want to work with them . . . While most are just bold-faced liars.
Frequently, questions of ethics are raised that are not easy to answer, simply because they are so rarely a matter of black and white. One such issue is the practice of mercy killings, such as ending the life of a friend or foe on the battlefield. A place where a physician or next of kin, which is traditionally responsible for the death of their loved one cannot be present, yet their damnation will follow.
Speaking from a deontological perspective, mercy killings, are viewed as cold-blooded murders committed against fellow humans: hardly a desirable course of action in a civilized world. However, by adopting a consequentialist point of view, it is possible to justify, or even applaud, those who engage in mercy killings because they end the sufferings of others. Because it is wrong to knowingly allow others to suffer, and mercy killings end suffering. The decision to mercy-kill an individual is morally justifiable.
By definition, a mercy killing is an act of kindness, a blessing bestowed upon individuals whose lives have ceased to bring them happiness, whether through extreme suffering or a lack of awareness of their existence. As best explained Lewis Vaughn, in Doing Ethics,
It is thought to provide a benefit or a good for the person by ending a life deemed no longer worth living—a situation that typically arises when someone has an incurable or terminal disease that causes great suffering or when someone experiences an irreversible loss of consciousness.
Thus, an individual in a position to be mercy killed lives within the doctrine of what philosopher John Stuart Mills would call it a “lower grade of existence,” a state not to be wished upon anyone, which justifies mercy killings from a utilitarian perspective.
In choosing to mercy kill an individual—regardless of who pulls the trigger—it indicates an admission that the person in question will be made better off by doing so. Armed with a utilitarian point of view, as proposed by John Stuart Mills, a philosopher, and proponent of a consequentialist approach to ethics. It is only when we remove our shock and look beyond a moment, ignoring life as sanctity, and at the long-term suffering of the on-going life. Then mercy killing ceases to be deplorable and instead becomes an act of kindest charity.
In addition to easing the suffering of the individual in question, it is necessary to consider others—including family and friends—whose happiness would be affected by a mercy killing. Watching another suffer, consciously or not, invariably gives rise to emotional turmoil and pain, caused by the knowledge that the individual in question will never again be able to enjoy life as they once did.
From a consequentialist point of view, mercy killings put an end to the suffering of those who care about the person being mercy killed, thereby allowing them to—eventually—return to the state of greater happiness that Mills, put well, and states,
All men prefer a being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and is certainly accessible to it . . . But in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into [it].
Mercy killings have the ability to put an end to the sufferings of family and friends who struggle to see a loved one live in such a state to make death a preferable alternative, therefore increasing the general happiness and making mercy killing morally justifiable.
As such, mercy killings stand to benefit multiple people whose suffering would otherwise be prolonged and their happiness diminished. So long as it is clear the individual either desires to be released from their state of misery or will not make a recovery. Additionally, in the harsh reality of the bottom line, where the decisions are actually made in this great world of ours. Mercy killings increase social progress, and therefore can be considered moral from a consequentialist perspective. In that, the act may be extreme, but the outcome is for the best interest of the individual, their circle, and the greater good.
Crucify the Heretic
Critics maintain that the practice of mercy killings are a slippery slope, leading to abuses and otherwise unnecessary deaths and the suffering of others. Even so, the same argument can be applied in reverse. If more lives can be improved by mercy killings than might possibly be damaged beyond repair for a lifetime on the individual and their loved ones. Then a consequentialist point of view of ethics allows the moral sanctions against doing so to be lifted. So long as the individuals involved in the decision-making process are in agreement that overall happiness would be increased by doing so, especially for the person in question, it is ethical to put an end to their tribulations and in doing so improve social progress.
Dare ask, how I can play god? I’ll kneel to no god that plays by the rules of this world and still wants us to kiss his/her ass. It’s awful out there with multiple gods claiming right, with followers who are willing to die to prove their god right. Madness.
The only right in this world is the decisions of the individual who does what is truly right; and not emotionally, monetarily, politically, or spiritually. Those who simply ensure the education, freedom, guidance, safety, and security of those around them -if you want a saint, find one of them. That is, before throwing your money away on some entertainer with a heavily edited, and too often interpreted for comfort book, built by kings to demand serfdom and total rule.
Featured Image – Buck Clay