"An acceptance of the practice of voluntary euthanasia is incompatible with the Christian belief in the sanctity of life but not with the attitudes of some ethical philosophers or some medical practitioners." Discuss.
AS Religious Studies Coursework Essay.
“An acceptance of the practice of voluntary euthanasia is incompatible with the Christian belief in the sanctity of life but not with the attitudes of some ethical philosophers or some medical practitioners.” Discuss.
Euthanasia is defined as: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy (Merriam-Webster online dictionary). describes each of the types of euthanasia in the following terms. Non-voluntary: When the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent. Euthanasia: the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. (The key word here is "intentional". If death is not intended, it is not an act of euthanasia) Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed has requested to be killed, this may also come in the form of a living will. This is a will, which, in great detain, outlines possible circumstances and outcomes a patient may wish their doctors or carers abide by. Involuntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed made an expressed wish to the contrary. Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose (an example is in the case of Reginald Crews’ wife, who assisted him to die, by taking him to Switzerland, to the organisation Dignitas, in order to end his life. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill himself or herself it is called "physician assisted suicide." Euthanasia By Action: Intentionally causing a person's death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection. Euthanasia By Omission, (or passive euthanasia): Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water. The term euthanasia also translates to mean “a good death.” Various Christian denominations have different views on the subject of euthanasia, however traditionally it is viewed as morally wrong.
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The Christian belief in the sanctity of human life is first described in the Bible, in Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" The view that the Roman Catholic church would take, is that euthanasia is unacceptable, however, the church would agree with the view of A.H. Clough “Thou shall not kill: but needst not strive officiously to keep alive.” This leads to the Roman Catholic acceptance of extraordinary circumstances, where a patient has the right to refuse treatment supplied by medical advances. A Case study example of this is in the example of Diane Pretty.
Although Pretty was legally not allowed voluntary euthanasia, in the final weeks of her dying, she was given the option to refuse drugs to help her breathing. If she refused, the pain would have been incredible, however her death would come sooner. This would be an acceptable situation to the Roman Catholic Church, however it would mean Diane would have to endure incredible pain, the primary thing that she wanted to avoid. This is an example of passive euthanasia; the patient and doctors would do nothing to allow the patient to die sooner, however this doesn’t conform to the view that euthanasia is a good or easy death.
“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."... Thomas Jefferson; the third President of the USA. This may be a prime reason why euthanasia is illegal all over the world accept in Holland and Belgium. Many governments feel that to legalise euthanasia would begin a slippery slope to legalised killing of societies weakest members. Including the elderly and disabled.
The Christian protestant view of euthanasia tends to be slightly more relaxed. A lower percentage of Protestants disagree with euthanasia, because they feel that in some circumstances, to put a person through unnecessary pain and suffering is wrong. This is the theory that “the end justifies the means.” In other words, when the outcome is certain, in Diane Pretties case; that she would certainly die, the means; the way in which she died, should be as dignified as possible. Therefore some Protestants believe that to grant euthanasia in this case would have been beneficial.
Various critics have established differing views on voluntary euthanasia, one critic; Phillipa Foot takes the following view; 1. Each person has rights, including the right to life. 2. For each right a person has there are corresponding duties others have. 3. The right to life has the corresponding duty of non-interference 4. Therefore killing someone against there will is unjustified. () However this view only takes into account involuntary euthanasia.
Palliative care is often a different solution offered for a patient when euthanasia is not available, but it is not the solution for all, and so some people believe they should have the right to autonomy, the choice to make their own decisions. “Whilst palliative care makes a great difference to many people, it is not the solution for all. Some terminal pain and other distressing symptoms cannot be fully controlled, even with the best care - I know!” This is a quote from Diane Pretty. She is in agreement that palliative care does sometimes make a difference; it isn’t the solution for everyone. However, it is quality of life, and individual feelings about dignity rather than pain, that is often the main reason behind a patient's request for help in dying. She believes everyone should have the choice, and that for people to speculate on the benefits and drawbacks of euthanasia when they have not experienced a condition like hers is unfair. If you have not experienced the pain then how can you know?
The CMF (Christian medical fellowship) published an article on Physician assisted suicide in 2000. This article goes against Prettys’ view. CMF make the point that distress and pain can sometimes cause bad decisions, and a person’s true autonomy may be abandoned. However CMF also states that to have personal autonomy is NOT the same s saying that people have the right to do whatever they like. Therefore to ask for PAS would not be right because it impinges on the doctors’ autonomy, and that of their families and friends.
Legalisation of PAS would give doctors enormous new powers over life and death. This has the real possibility of removing the patient’s innate trust in their doctor. This could result in the elderly and other of societies weakest members becoming scared of going to their practitioners for relief of a simple cold. Trust will be lost. Finally, the CMF concludes that ‘Rejection of euthanasia as an option for the individual entails a compelling social responsibility to care adequately for those who are elderly, dying or disabled. A good death is not the same as simply having a convenient one.’