As I go through my philosophy notes in preparation for my final on Thursday, I reread a comment I wrote in the margin of my paper during one class. It caused me to stop and think once again, as I did a few weeks ago when I wrote it.
We were talking about euthanasia and whether there is a moral/ethical difference between active euthanasia (think lethal injection) or passive euthanasia (withdrawing a feeding tube). Physically, one is an act of commission while the other is omission.
An example was brought up: Bob decides to kill his young cousin because by doing so he will gain a large inheritance. In situation (1) Bob walks into the bathroom where young cousin is in the bath and holds the cousin’s head underwater until he is dead then makes it look like an accident. In situation (2) Bob walks into the bathroom intending to hold his cousin’s head underwater but finds his cousin has already slipped and is drowning on his own. Bob stands by and watches it happen.
Is there really a difference between these two? The intent was the same, the result was the same, the only difference is the way in which it happened. The guilt of Bob seems to hinge on his intent.
It reminded me of when Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and talked about how being angry with a brother was equivalent to murder. Or how by looking at a woman lustfully is committing adultery with her in the heart.