This week I did my best to study Rawls theories and how they applied to the Brody/Laskin scenario. Rawls’ beliefs are derived from the theories of utilitarianism and feminism, in that he focuses on societal rules rather than the rules or morals of an individual. Also, contrary to the Hobbesian view, he believed that people matter because they are “ends in themselves” rather than just being a harm or benefit to others. This means that everyone has a basic right to equal consideration. Although this means that some people will naturally have an advantage over others, Rawls theorized that this could be fixed by what he called “the original position”.
In layman’s terms, the original position is simply a construct designed to be a fair and impartial point of view.The original position is supported by what Rawls called the veil of ignorance. The veil of ignorance is a way of determining the moral position of ethical or political issues by maintaining that the people making political decisions know nothing about their special characteristics. Rather, they simply act as a human being with basic needs. This prevents personal greed from corrupting social principles.
Rawls believed that allowing an individual’s personality that is influenced by their sex, race, nationality, etc. allows an individual to “tailor social principles” to their personal advantage.By applying Rawls’ theory to modern government it seems to be the ideal way to avoid corruption and biased laws that do not benefit society. However, it is an idealist theory. The veil of ignorance is only an experiment and the vast majority of people in the world are going to be biased. In a way, one could relate Rawls’ theories to communism, and the idea that all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs. However, communism failed because of corruption and overspending on the military budget. Although the theories behind it sound logical, they do not take into account the ease to which it is to be corrupted by greed and personal bias.
As far as the Laskin/Brody situation, it is against the law for a doctor to administer active euthanasia. Under the veil of ignorance, this requires a person to look at the situation without personal opinions and focus only on the facts of the situation. The facts were that Mr. Laskin was dying slowly and painfully, he wanted to end his life, and his family wanted his suffering to end. Whether or not a person believes in the morality of euthanasia, this does not take away from the fact that, under Rawls’ theories, the first principle of justice clearly states that everyone is entitled to basic freedoms and the pursuit of happiness.
The question then becomes does this include someone’s freedom to die? What does the pursuit of happiness mean in this situation? I believe that, when applying Rawls’ theories, Mr. Laskin’s rights to freedom and the pursuit of his happiness allow him to make the choice to end his life.