Voluntary Euthanasia: A Quantum Theory of Moral Action (part 5)

This is part 5 of a 5-part series.  Please read them in the order they were posted.

I contemplate writing a book on this subject intended for the educated reader, tentatively titled “My Death, My Choice: A Secular View of Voluntary Euthanasia” in which this quantum theory will play an integral role.  The book assumes that readers hold a secular humanist worldview.  That is, secular in the sense that no deities, afterlives, or other supernatural notions are involved, and humanistic in the sense that the wellbeing of human and non-human sentient creatures is the only valid measure of moral virtue. Readers of this article are requested to read my short, free ebook, The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse ..., an atheistic rationale for secular humanism. 

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Illustration

Frank is a 93-year-old World War II veteran living in Florida.  He has been diagnosed with macular degeneration and has been told by his ophthalmologist that he will lose all functional sight within two years.  Currently, he is unable to read, which has been a life-long favorite activity, but can see blurry images and motion when watching television and is still able to walk in familiar surroundings without hitting objects. Otherwise, he is in good health.  His wife of 65 years died two years ago of cancer.  He lives alone in the modest home he shared with her since retiring thirty years ago.  He has two children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in other states.  A gregarious person, Frank has some devoted friends, although several others of his generation have died in recent years.  Being unable to drive, his younger friends transport him to outside-the-home events and activities.

Frank is terrified of going blind, and is currently seeking information about painless methods to end his life.

To calculate his PPQ, Frank would identify current Pleasure and of Pain factors and assign a number to each factor signifying “how many” quanta it contains.  This simplified and hypothetical illustration does not attempt to identify all possible factors.  Readers may consider others not listed here.

Pleasure factors and their quanta:

  • Social time with friends = 5
  • Time with children and grandchildren during their visits and phone conversations = 4
  • Listening to audiobooks in lieu of reading = 9
  • Eating meals = 4

TOTAL PLEASURE QUANTA: 22

Pain factors and their quanta:

  • Loneliness = 12
  • Boredom, being unable to read or engage in other activities requiring sight = 13
  • Frustration about being unable to do things for himself = 16
  • Fear of being forced to move to a care facility once he loses all sight = 12
  • Fear of losing the autonomy to end his life, once his vision is entirely gone = 9

TOTAL PAIN QUANTA: 62

Frank’s PPQ at the present time:

Q = (L/N) – 1

= (22/62) – 1

= 0.35 – 1

= – 0.65

Assuming Frank’s self-assessment is reasonably accurate and complete, his PPQ is negative.  Therefore, death would increase his net PPQ, that is, raising it from a negative to null (nothingness).

To measure the morality of ending his life, Frank would identify all others who would be affected by his death and calculate the PPQ of each individual consequent to his death.  He would then assign a weight to each, signifying the magnitude of the impact of his death on each person relative to his own PPQ.  Others’ PPQs reflect the impact on them if Frank elects to end his life.  To assess the morality of ending his life, Frank is determining the extent to which his personal benefit of dying (i.e., raising his PPQ from negative to null) is offset by the sum of the negative effects of his death on the PPQs of all others.

 Son:  PPQ = –0.37, weight = 6, result = –2.22

Daughter:  PPQ = –0.52, weight = 7, result = –3.64

Each grandchild (4):  mean PPQ = –0.28 , weight = 3x4, result = –3.36

Each friend (8):  mean PPQ = –0.19, weight = 2x8, result = –3.04

The sum of the impact of Frank’s death on all others’ PPQs is –12.26

Frank assigns a weight of  50 to his own PPQ, which signifies, for example, that his own well-being is 25 times the impact of his death on each friend. 

Therefore,

M = Ø – wQs + ΣwQo

= Ø - 50(-0.65) + (–12.26)

= Ø + 32.5 – 12.26

= 20.24

Narrative explanation: Frank’s personal benefit of dying exceeds the sum of the negative effects of his death on all others.  Therefore, choosing to die is a moral act.

Discussion of illustration

The reader will recognize that a full quantum analysis of Frank’s (or one’s own) choice of voluntary euthanasia would be a far more tedious exercise than the simplified calculations in this illustration.  Many more Pleasure and Pain factors would be included, and many more people would be affected than shown here.  It is unlikely that most readers would devote the time and attention to a full analysis unless, perhaps, one is considering applying this quantum theory to one’s own choice to die.

The purpose of the above illustration is to demonstrate that both questions being examined in this article (Is the remainder of my life worth living? and Would intentionally ending my life be a moral act?) may be considered in a reasoned and rational manner.  Listing and thinking about the relative importance of numerous Pleasure and Pain factors, and balancing the benefit of one’s own death with the impact on others, would no doubt be a worthwhile exercise, even without performing the mathematical calculations.

 

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