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Religious studies - Christian perspectives of euthanasia

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Introduction

What is euthanasia? Euthanasia is the act of intentionally ending the life of a person suffering from an incurable illness/disease to prevent them from having to suffer. The word 'intentionally' is used here because if the action isn't intended to kill the patient, but was intended for other purposes, it is not classed as euthanasia. For example, if a large dose of painkillers, such as morphine, is administered to ease the patient's pain (but without the intention to kill them), but as a result the patient dies of an overdose, then this is not euthanasia. Therefore, this is legal and part of good medical practice. This is called the Doctrine of Double Effect. Also, if a patient who has given a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, and they are not resuscitated following a cardiac arrest or a respiratory arrest, this in not euthanasia either. However, there is a possibility that this rule may be abused, as a doctor may write a DNR order in a patient's file without their consent. Euthanasia is also known as 'mercy killing', as it is merciful towards the dying person to allow them to die. In the United Kingdom, all forms of euthanasia are illegal. However, in some countries and states, such as Belgium and The Netherlands, euthanasia is legal under certain circumstances. Euthanasia can be voluntary, non-voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is where the patient expresses that they wish to die, non-voluntary euthanasia is where the patient does not express that they wish to die, and involuntary euthanasia is where the patient expresses that they do not wish to die. Voluntary euthanasia can only occur with the request of a patient of sound mind and who is able to make competent decisions, or a surrogate who is caring for them (for example a patient with motor neurone disease, who is unable to communicate by themselves because they may not be able to speak, may be able to express their wishes through a carer). ...read more.

Middle

Therefore honour God with your body." This means that you belong to God, and you have no right to control whether you live or die, and you should respect your body. God has given you your life as the ultimate gift. Also, Genesis 1:27 says that "God created man in his own image." This does not mean that people were created to look like God; rather it means that they were created to share in God's life, to be able to do good deeds and love one another. Therefore life should be preserved so people can carry on doing so. Christians believe that all humans were created equally, are equal, and should be treated equally, regardless of the quality of life. Everyone, including people in persistent vegetative states, old people, and handicapped people all have the same intrinsic value and value of their life. Saying that any individual's life is not worth anything because it is of such a poor quality is not acceptable, as all people are valuable because they are made in the Image of God. The same goes for an individual wishing for euthanasia themselves, because they cannot regard themselves as worthless. Nobody whatsoever is better off dead. Life has value in itself, regardless of how enjoyable it is. Specific Churches within Christianity also have their own specific teachings on the issue of euthanasia. The Roman Catholic Church's teaching is that under no circumstances whatsoever should euthanasia occur. Pope John Paul II said that "Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person." Roman Catholics regard all euthanasia, and all laws permitting it, as completely immoral and unjust. They follow the commandment "thou shalt not kill" as strongly as possible, as it is one of the Ten Commandments which must be obeyed at all times. Catholics believe that life is very valuable, regardless of its quality. ...read more.

Conclusion

One such organisation is Dignity in Dying, an organisation based in the UK which claims to be "the leading campaigning organisation promoting patient choice at the end of life". It is an organisation which is independent of any religious groups, so any person including a Christian could be involved with it. There are a few ways in which a Christian could support their beliefs through this organisation. One of these is to donate money to it. As it is entirely supported by public donations and contributions, it needs money to run, and if a Christian donated money to Dignity in Dying this would help with its campaigns to change the law to allow euthanasia in some circumstances. It is easy to donate money to Dignity in Dying through its website. Another form of donation which Dignity in Dying also encourages is leaving a gift to the organisation in your will. This is another way in which a Christian could help to put their beliefs into action. Finally, a Christian could help even more by joining the organisation. In this way, they could actively campaign for their beliefs, helping to raise public awareness and pressuring the Government for a change in the law. Finally, there are also ways in which a Christian with either belief about euthanasia could put their beliefs into action. For example, they could directly e-mail their MP. This is done easily using the website www.upmystreet.com/commons/l/, and could be used as another way to influence politicians' opinions about euthanasia. Or, a Christian wanting to act on their beliefs could also write a letter to a local or national newspaper or an internet messageboard either supporting or opposing euthanasia explaining why they hold their beliefs. If the letter was published, then it would receive widespread viewing, and it could change many peoples' opinions or even start a debate between people opposing and promoting euthanasia. This is a good way for them to put their beliefs into action because it could change the opinions of many people and change public opinion, which could pressure or influence the Government. ...read more.

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