Werner Herzog’s ‘Into the Abyss’

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people – and the state – kill (IMDB).

In class we talked about Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss. The discussion questions are below if you click on the image.

into the abyss

For your review it would be great if you engage with the big questions the film poses rather than just critique the methods/techniques used in its production. In your answer you might like to include:

  • Your opinion(s) about the legitimacy of capital punishment
  • Your reasons for it
  • Some arguments and points made by different philosophers (especially Bentham and Kant)
  • Some mention of the case of Carla Faye that Captain Allan mentions
  • Some religious view points
  • A detailed and reasoned explanation as to which opinions you agree/disagree with and exactly why

The following might help:

Screen shot 2015-06-12 at 10.04.58

Screen shot 2015-06-12 at 10.07.20


Some Euthanasia Definitions

For those of you all who have prelims coming up and are starting to notice that there is a lot of jargon in the medical ethics section. Quite often there are questions that require you to understand one of these terms (or more). If you don’t know what they mean, you’ll really struggle – so flashcards are the order of the day….

Euthanasia – a person kills another or allows her to die for her own benefit

Active Euthanasia – a person does something that intentionally results in the others death

Passive Euthanasia – a person allows the other to die, even though keeping them alive is a possibility that is open. this usually involve withholding a treatment or food.

Voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the person dying is able to, and does, express his wish to die

Non-voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the patient is not able to express a preference (even if it may seem fairly obvious)

Involuntary Euthanasia – the death of the person is against their compentent wishes, this is usually where people mention the Nazis’ use of the word ‘euthanasia’. There are, however, cases where it is arguable that euthanasia against the person’s wishes, may be in their best interest. We usually use ‘Involuntary Euthanasia’ in this sense.

Suicide – someone intentionally kills themselves

Assisted Suicide – one person helps another to kill themselves (when they wish it)

Physician Assisted Suicide -as above, where the agent is a doctor.

The idea to write these down in one place came from ‘The Very Short Introduction to Medical Ethics’. It has a really good chapter on Euthanasia that should be useful for revision… It could have been written for Higher/Int 2 RMPS.

China arrests after kidney sold for iPad (BBC reports)

Five people have been arrested in southern China after a teenager sold his kidney so he could buy an iPhone and iPad, state media have reported.

Those detained include the surgeon who removed the kidney from the boy in April last year.

State-run Xinhua news agency says the group received around $35,000 (£22,000) for the transplant.

The student is said to be suffering renal failure, according to prosecutors in Hunan province quoted by Xinhua.

Only identified by his surname Wang, he is said to have received about $3,000 for his kidney.

The 17-year-old was reportedly recruited for the illegal trade through an online chatroom.

Organ shortage
The case was discovered when his mother noticed the new gadgets; when asked where he got the money, he admitted selling a kidney.

The group behind the operation have been charged with causing intentional injury and illegal organ trading.

While Apple iPhones and iPads are very popular in China, they are priced beyond the reach of many urban workers.

And there is a constant shortage of organ donors.

Official figures from the health ministry show that about 1.5 million people need transplants, but only 10,000 are performed annually.

Executed prisoners have been often used as a source of organs, but last month China vowed to phase this out over the next five years. (BBC WEBSITE)


I know it’s too early… But…

here are some excellent resources that you could use to aid you in your RMPS (Religious, Moral & Philosophical Studies) revision… especially when your getting bored of writing… First is utilitarian philosopher talking about the use of embryos on bigthink.com:

The above would be perfect for Int 2, this one might be better for those of you doing advanced or higher… Baroness Warnock on Radio 2 (I haven’t listened to this yet but hear it’s very useful):

Benefits and dangers of Invol. Euthanasia – Int2 / Higher RMPS


To post your opinion on the view you signed up for in class just press comment below. Usual options (initials) apply and make sure you make your answer balanced and clear. We can all use each others answers for revising for the NAB… If you want to see a bigger version of the slide above just click on it… [Make sure you submit your answer to the correct post]

Your Choices:

Benefits and Dangers of Voluntary Euthanasia – Int 2 RMPS

To post your opinion on the view you signed up for in class just press comment below. Usual options (initials) apply and make sure you make your answer balanced and clear. We can all use each others answers for revising for the NAB… If you want to see a bigger version of the slide above just click on it…

Sign up sheet:


Int 2 RMPS revision check-list…

Hiyaaa and good luck for tomorrow’s exam. I’m sure you’re all going to do wonderfully. I was just doing a final check through the SQA arrangement documents (click for link) and I’ve included the bits you need to know here. You should find this list of outcomes pretty reassuring as we have covered far more than the minimum necessary.

On Buddhism:

On Ethics:

And on Philosophy of Religion:


In terms of advice, read your booklet (available here), answer the question, stick to your timings and (almost) always give both sides in Analysis and Evaluation type questions…

And as always:

Explain why you think what you think.

Get a good sleep tonight and Good Luck! – I’ll see you outside tomorrow.