Moral Values Understanding the Difference between Death and Life

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This week’s forum really opened up some older moral values; growing up, I remember this case and I remember feeling very sorry for the family and Terri, but, even at a young age, had a feeling that the husband may not be on the same sympathetic/moral wave as everyone else, although, we most likely understand that his values are what he thought was best (even if some thought he was ready to “pull the plug” in order to inherit his wife’s assets). At a young age, we do not really grasp the difference in life and death (whether natural or by choice, or someone else’s choice), and certainly cannot fathom the feelings that this family had gone through with their daughter, Terri.

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We discovered this week what is meant in terms of moral development. We learned that Kohlberg was a fan of Piaget’s principle of moral development (Piaget, 1932) and that he was adamant to emerging it even further. We learned a bit about the three different levels of moral development, which include, Preconventional Morality, Conventional Morality, and Post Conventional Morality (Crain, 2016). Each of these levels had a different basis of individual judgment and reasoning, such as level encompassed the basis that those that are younger (children), do not understand the concept of morality, and that it is usually the parents who shape these values during early childhood development.

It is understood in level one, the individual’s (child) authority is external and the perceptive stance would be based on one’s physical penalties of their actions (Crain, 2016; Psychology Notes HQ, 2016). In level two, individuals, which are now at the teenage and adult portion of one’s life, moral standards become a bit more adopted; as with above, the authoritative state is now instilled inside someone, although does not become as noticeable (Crain, 2016; Psychology Notes HQ, 2016). The last level, three, is where it all comes to a top mixture, where one’s judgment is now built on their own principles, and reasoning is now built on justice and ones rights (Crain, 2016; Psychology Notes HQ, 2016). With those different levels, there are two stages in each that build upon the different internal morals that are learned throughout one’s development.

As we know from the timeline of the Schiavo case, we are confronted with the court case of a married woman who became stuck in a brain-dead vegetative state, which left her living via medical devices for several years. In the wake of this, while her life was sustained for many years, it came to surface the levels of morality between the family (parents) and her husband, Michael. The question was brought up on whether to keep her living in the state that she is, or to let her go and pass on either naturally (until her body shut down from lack of nutrients, water, etc) or through euthanasia. So, we are asked, where do the parents and Michael (the husband) fall in regard to the stages of moral development?

For the husband, one could justify that Michael basically would fit in stage 5, which is the awareness of the dependence of rules and democracy. Michael, as her husband, was not able to carry out [legally], his moral dilemma to carry out the act of euthanasia in the act to “let Terri die.” He believed that because of her state and discomfort of living, she would have wanted to die and no longer suffer. On the other hand, Terri’s parents were the opposite of feeling, as they believed that Terri would want to live, no matter what her state of living would be. Now, in my opinion, I think the parents fall in stage three, but also stage 4.

These stages are where one will follow one’s values because it’s what others expect, as well as, adhering to the legality of situations (such as euthanasia). On the other hand, somewhat in regard to Michael; we are set to believe that someone cognizant forms their own moral values, as well as acting upon them, whether they are lawful or not, and then which at this point they start to fall into the 6th stage of level three. People at this stage/level are ready to act upon what they feel is to be morally right, whether or not legal or acceptable within one’s society, etc. From this, and what we know about the stages/levels of moral development, we can see that Kohlberg emerged Piaget’s principles and outlined them more based upon one’s morals and ethicality.

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Moral values understanding the difference between death and life. (2021, Nov 25). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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