Lawrence Oates is giving up his life

Tomáš Ondráček


„I am just going outside and may be some time,“ said captain Oates leaving the tent to never come back. He supposed to have serious frostbites. He supposed to be losing his energy much faster than others. He asked to be left to his destiny, yet others refused. That is why he left alone. Scott wrote to his diary, that they knew Oates was walking to his death, that he was a brave man and an English gentleman. Can we have a duty to die? Is it possible for euthanasia to be not merely option but a duty?

In discussion about euthanasia it is argued, that if we accept euthanasia, right to die can become a duty to die and this result is unwanted. Duty to die is something what is not acceptable, what is somehow wrong. Yet there are examples when duty to die is accepted. Oates left the tent and he went to death. Because he knew that if he stayed, the possibility for others to be saved, would be much lower (or there would be no chance at all). They could not left him behind, but he had to left them. It seems that he had duty to die. It is same when climber fall of and cut the rope, because he don’t want to risk other’s lives.

There are four main motives connected with decision to die (Warnock, 2008). These motives can be divided into two groups; thus we chose death with regards to ourselves, in relation to pain or to dignity, and we chose death with regards to others, in relation to our close-ones or society. If man himself does not regard his own life as the highest and undisputable value, if he does not think that he may act regardless to others or to something else, than there could be moments when he has a duty to die. We have duty to die because we want to protect somebody or something, which is more valuable for us than our lives, and this could be lives of others or even the image of ourselves. Duty to die is not a reasons for rejecting euthanasia, it is not something unwanted or unacceptable.


euthanasia, death, decision to die, duty to die

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Published by the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.
ISSN: 1212-9097