Euthanasia- coursework on Christian belief, ethical philosophers and that of the medical establishment.

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Hannah Hawker

Religious Studies

Euthanasia- coursework on Christian belief, ethical philosophers and that of the medical establishment.

'An acceptance of the practice of euthanasia is incompatible with Christian beliefs in the sanctity of life and, but not with the attitudes of ethical philosophers or some medical establishment'

Before I can begin to discuss the statement there are issues that need to be illustrated; that there are no black and white answers. For example, a Christian doctor who has pledged hypocrites oath and believes whole heartedly in the bible may also believe in the human rights of an individual, i.e., the right to death without suffering (remembering that in this country a vet is allowed to put animals out of misery and suffering and provide them with a merciful death, a right under British legislation). Basically there cannot be a simple straightforward answer. There are issues that can only be truly relevant and appropriate to somebody actually going through pain and suffering. How can one claim to know what is right or wrong without experience? I am sure that many would change their outlook on euthanasia if confronted with a long painful death. Hence, one can be sympathetic but not empathic.

Euthanasia translates as 'good death' or 'dying well' but what is a 'good' death? One could describe it as a peaceful, painless, lucid with loved ones present.

In order that the question of euthanasia can be properly dealt with, it is first necessary to define the words used. Etymologically speaking, in ancient times euthanasia meant an easy death without severe suffering. Today, one no longer thinks of this as the original meaning of the word, but rather some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately, the word euthanasia is used in a more particular sense to mean "mercy killing", for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering or an end to an incurably sick patient from the prolongation, perhaps for many years, of a miserable life, which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or society. It is therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present essay; by euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia's terms of reference are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used; therefore, a Christian understanding of euthanasia is that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent person, (although one must bare in mind that different denominations may hold a slightly different view on aspects) whether it be a foetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for herself or himself or for another person entrusted in his or her care, nor can person consent to it, either implicitly or explicitly. There is a widespread agreement that omissions as well as actions can constitute euthanasia. The Roman Catholic Church, in its Declaration on Euthanasia, for example, defines euthanasia as 'an action or omission of itself or intention causes death'. Nor can authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of he divine law, an offence against the dignity of a human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.

It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or to obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nethertheless the error of judgement into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected. The pleas of gravely ill people who sometime ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love. What a sick person needs, besides medical care is love, human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by all those close to him or her, parents children, docors and nurses.

There are different types of euthanasia and before looking more closely at the arguments it will be necessary to draw some distinctions. Euthanasia can take three forms, voluntary, non-voluntary an involuntary.

Euthanasia can be voluntary even if the person is no longer competent to assert his or her wish to die when his or her life is ended. You may wish to have your life ended, should you ever find yourself in a situation where, whilst suffering from a distressing an incurable condition, illness or accident has robbed you of all your rational facilities, and you are no longer able to decide between life and death. If, while still competent, you express the considered wish to die when in a situation such as this, then the person who ends your life in the appropriate circumstances acts upon your request and performs an act of voluntary euthanasia.

Euthanasia is non-voluntary when the person whose life is ended cannot chose between life and death. For example, because the person is hopelessly ill or a handicapped newborn infant, or because illness or accident have rendered a formally competent person prematurely incompetent, without the person previously indicating whether he or she actually would have chosen euthanasia in certain circumstances.

Euthanasia is involuntary when it is preformed on a person who would have been able to give or withhold consent to her own death, but has not given consent- either because he/she was not asked, or because he/she was asked but withheld consent, wanting to go on living. Whilst clear cases of involuntary euthanasia would be relatively rare it has been argued that some widely excepted medical practices (such as the administration of increasingly large doses of painkillers that will eventually cause the patients death or the unconsented to withholding of life sustaining treatment) amount to involuntary euthanasia.
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Euthanasia is not compatable with most Christian mostly from the sanctity of life perspective. Sanctity means sacred 'given by God'. Built into that definition is the idea that we human beings do not have the right to terminate life. Contrary to popular belief, this is not in fact a biblical expression but is a biblical concept derived from the understanding of these four main points:

* Human life being made in the image of God Genesis 1:27. In Genesis 9:6 was instructive for our forbearers and should be for us as well, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by ...

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