In the common mind, to cause the death of another human being would be viewed as morally reprehensible, but as we look at the subject from different aspects, it becomes a much more complicated issue and not as clear cut as first perceived. Our view of morality may change depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Important issues such as euthanasia, suicide, abortion, capital punishment and wars have been discussed by philosophers through the ages trying to establish if the taking of a life can be morally justified.
Even though many people may have definite convictions such as opposing abortion under any circumstances, as they consider it to be murder, many anti abortionists in turn support capitol punishment which in the view of many others is considered to be murder, irrespective of the fact that is performed legally by the state. On the other hand there are pro-abortionists who would not take up arms to fight in wars. To define morality in death is to walk into a minefield of contradictions. This question is of major importance to theorists from Utilitarian and Deontological backgrounds.
Utilitarianism considers the consequences of any act as being more important than the pain or destruction the act causes. For an act to be moral it must produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This opens the other debate of what actually constitutes happiness. JS Mill came up with the theory of different types of happiness while Jeremy Betham made the felicific calculus for happiness. (Warbuton philosophy 1996 pp99)
By contrast, what makes an action right or wrong for deontologists is the principle inherent in the action. If an action is done from a sense of duty, if the principle of the action can be considered universal, then the action is right. For example, if I tell the truth, not just because it is convenient for me to do so but because I know that I have respect for another person, then I act from duty and my action is right. If I tell...