"No one of you should ever wish for death because of any misfortune that befalls him. Should anyone be sore afflicted, he should say: "Allah, keep me alive so long as life is the better for me, and cause me to die when death is the better for me."
Hadith, Bukhari and Muslim
The quotation above has only one meaning, which is that as long as a believer has drop of life, he or she has the power to do good even if in great pain, and most importantly as long as a sinner has life, he or she has a chance to repent and reform as it is never too late. No one has the right to decide when they should die or how they should die except God. God explains using many examples that use of euthanasia is forbidden and that no Muslim can perform it no matter what the situation they are in. Islam advises us that no Muslim will suffer any more than they can cope with.
"When their time...arrives they cannot tarry for a single hour nor can they go ahead."
Nor can a soul die except by Allah's leave, that is a decree with a fixed term. The prophet has said that Muslims should seek treatment for any diseases or illness.
"Seek treatment, subjects of God, for to every illness God has made a cure",
"Your body has a right on you."
There is no disagreement that the financial cost of maintaining the incurably ill and the senile is a growing concern, so much so that some groups have gone beyond the concept of the "right to die" to that of the "duty to die". They claim that when the human machine has outlived its productive span its maintenance is an unacceptable burden on society, and it should be disposed of, abruptly rather than allowing it to deteriorate gradually.
This logic is completely alien to Islam. Values take priority over price. The care for the weak, old and helpless is a value in itself for which people are willing to sacrifice time, effort and money, and this starts, naturally with one's own parents
"Your Lord decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt but address them in terms of honor. And lower to them the wing of humility out of compassion, and say: my Lord, bestow on them Your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood"
(Qur'an 17:25- 25)
Because such caring is a virtue ordained and rewarded by God in this world and in the Hereafter, the believers do not take it as a debt but as an investment.
When individual means cannot cover the needed care, it becomes, according to Islam, the collective responsibility of society, and financial priorities are reshuffled so that values take priority over pleasures, and people derive more pleasure from heeding values than
from pursuing other pleasantries. A prerequisite of course is a complete moral and spiritual re-orientation of a society that does not hold to these premises.
That taking of anther life is totally forbidden in the Muslim world as the fact that all human life is sacred because it is given by God, and that God decides how long each and every person will live and die. Human beings have the obligations not to interfere with this.
Euthanasia and suicide are not included among the reasons allowed for killing in Islam
"Do not take life, which Allah made sacred, other than in the course of justice." (Qur'an 17.33)
"If anyone kills a person - unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land- it would be as if he killed the whole people." (Qur'an 5.32)
"When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour." (Qur'an 16.61)
"And no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term." (Qur'an 3.145)
Having examined the Muslim view, the Jewish approach to euthanasia will now be considered
The religion of Judaism educates its people that all life has been born from God.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.")
Jews believe that since God created life, only he is permitted to judge when a believer should depart this life. Euthanasia is in opposition to the teachings of the Jewish scriptures. The Jewish tradition regards the preservation of human life as one of its supreme moral values and forbids doing anything that might shorten life. This is because our lives are not ours to dispose of as we desire. All life is of an infinite value, regardless of its duration or quality, because all of mankind are in the image of God. Jews believe that saving someone from pain is not a reason to kill them, nor is it to kill your self to stop your self from suffering. Yet there is a limit to the duty to keep a person alive, and it is acceptable to ask God in prayer to remove the concerned person from their pain and suffering.
"The value of human life is infinite and beyond measure, so that any part of life - even if only an hour or a second - is of precisely the same worth as seventy years of it, just as any fraction of infinity, being indivisible, remains infinite." Lord Jakobovits, former UK Chief Rabbi
Subsequently if the person is in poor health and near death, and any performance that might hasten their death, for example closing the eyes or moving a limb is entirely forbidden. Judaish Law state that doctors (and patients) have a duty to preserve life at all cost, and a doctor must achieve everything he/she can do to save a patient's life - even if the patient have no desire to live. Yet the complications begins when doctors in such cases where a patient is terminally ill and power less to intervene or respond to its surroundings, and even though the doctor cannot do anything that hastens it's patients death, "When something which is preventing the soul from departing" a doctor can remove whatever treatment which is preventing the dying person's soul from departing. In more modern language this means that if something is an impediment to the natural process of death and the patient only survives because of it, it is permitted under Jewish law to withdraw that item. So if a patient is certain to die, and is only being kept alive by a ventilator, it is permissible to switch off the ventilator since it is impeding the natural process of death. Doctors are commanded to do their best to heal the sick and prevent suffering. So it is permitted for a doctor to put a patient through life-endangering treatment if that is likely to extend the patient's life or reduce their pain.
The first example of Jewish euthanasia comes in the Bible
And a certain woman threw an upper millstone upon Abim'elech's head, and crushed his skull.
Then he called hastily to the young man his armor-bearer, and said to him,
"Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, 'A woman killed him.'"
And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
"But your blood of your lives will I require; ...from the hand of man, from the hand of a person's brother, will I require the life of man."
From the above quotation we can observe that if an individual assists another person to die then it is regarded as murder. "One who intentionally takes one's life has no share in the world to come." Even the mourning rituals of Shiva are not observed and such persons are not buried in proximity to other Jews (though within a Jewish cemetery). If a drug that facilitate a person to relieve pain such as the use of morphine, in that case the concerned person must be informed that the treatment can be addictive. In addition if a person refuses to receive medical treatment subsequently they violate the Biblical commandments,
"Take therefore good heed to yourself"
A person does not need to be deficient to undergo surgery which will be more painful than the pain they are already tormented of, merely if it is going to extend their life time by a short phase.
"...The message of Judaism is that one must struggle until the last breath of life. Until the last moment, one has to live and rejoice and give thanks to the Creator ..."
Dr. Rachamim Melamed-Cohen, Jewsweek, March, 2002
The Jewish tradition regards the preservation of human life as one of its supreme moral values and forbids any undertaking that may shorten life. On the other hand it does not require doctors to make dying last longer than it naturally should.
The Jewish law forbids active euthanasia and regards it as murder. There are no exceptions to this rule and makes no variation if the person concerned desires to die. It is also wrong to condense a life even if it would end very soon, because every moment is considered equal in value to many years of natural life.
Jewish law pronounces that doctors (and patients) have a duty to preserve life, and a doctor must do everything he/she can to save a patient's life - even if the patient does not desire them to. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach have ruled that a dying patient should not be kept alive by artificial means where the treatment does not cure the illness but merely prolongs the patient's life temporarily and the patient is suffering great pain, Furthermore pain relief can be given even though it may hasten death, as long as the dose is not certain to kill, and the intention is not to kill but to relieve pain.
Human beings do not have the right to kill themselves, so someone who is incurably ill and in immense pain cannot take action to speed their own death. Even if they are mentally fit to make that choice, the rule that life is sacred prevents them from shortening their own life.
A passage in the 'Talmud' acquaints us with the story of Rabbi Chanina ben Teradion, who was being burned alive by the Romans. His pupils urged him to end his suffering quickly by opening his mouth and inhaling the flames. He replied, "It is better that He who gave [me my soul] should take it rather than I should cause injury to myself."
It is against the law under the religion of Judaism to contribute in any way to bring about the death of the ill person, since one is not allowed to permit another Jew to break the Jewish law.
If these are the religious obligations to euthanasia then what of those views which are based on moral reasoning alone
Organisation such as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society argue that a civilised society should allow people to die in dignity and without pain, and should allow others to help them do so if they cannot manage it on their own. They say that our bodies are our own, and we should be allowed to do what ever we want with them. So it is wrong to make anyone live longer than they want, In fact making people go on living when they do not wish to violates their personal freedom and that can be considered very immoral.
They also append that if suicide is not a true crime, therefore euthanasia too should not be a proper crime. It is simply a matter of being permitted to exercise one's individual human rights.
Most religions as shown in the research above have disapproved of the use of euthanasia, and a few totally forbid it. Virtually all religions state that those who become vulnerable through illness or disability deserve special care and protection, and that proper end of life care is a much better and dignified than euthanasia can ever be. But keeping in mind that the main world religions views are based on the scriptural references which provide the basis for their objections to euthanasia were written at least 1,400 years ago, before medical science developed and it was able to have the capacity to keep a person alive for so long or in some cases where a person may be kept alive almost in definitely, surely a new approach is needed to cover this new technology. In view of this the quality of life for the person concerned becomes the main factor. When the technology is used to keep a person to live, with out having a say or powerless to intervene seems immoral and can be considered very uncivilised in the modern age. This dilemma most be debated sooner than later in order for the modern societies to develop and most importantly to have a fair middle ground were the concerned person can have a final say or a choice.
Some non-religious people consider the fact that suffering has a value. As suffering is something which draws upon all the resources of a human being and enables them to reach the highest and noblest points of what they really are. Suffering allows a person to be a good example to others by showing how to behave when things are bad. They think it provides an opportunity to grow in wisdom, character, and compassion. Most importantly a non- religious person would clearly believe that he/she own their body and their life. As an adult no-one has the right to decide for you what you will wear or eat, where you will live, who you should marry and how you should spend your free time. These are all basic human rights, so why is it not legal to choose how and when you will die? It seems a moral absurdity. However a basic principle of human rights is that you should be permitted to do whatever you like providing it does not harm anyone else. It could be argued that euthanasia does harm others in certain amounts. It puts pressure on the elderly and terminally ill to end their life before they really want to. It suggests to people who have serve disabilities that they are no more use to anyone and that society would be better off without them. This would therefore be very harmful and forms the basis of many non-religious objections to euthanasia.
M Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, has written that in a few weeks at the end of life, with pain properly controlled a person might learn
"how to negotiate a middle path between control and total passivity, about how to welcome the responsible care of strangers, about how to be dependent once again ... about how to trust and maybe even, out of existential suffering, at least a little bit about how to pray or talk with God."
Through my research I have establish that Islam and Judaism do not acknowledge euthanasia in any form. It is outlawed in both of the religions. I myself cannot decide if euthanasia is right or wrong, but on the other hand I believe that every individual has the right to choose how he or she lives and dies, no one has the right to judge if another's life is worth living or not. The basic right to life should not be abridged because someone decides that someone else's quality of life is too low. Once we base the right to live on (quality of life) standards, there is no logical place to draw the line. Also, people need not be killed to "put them out of their misery" when they remain seriously in poor health. Almost all pain can be relieved by modern medical techniques, so the question becomes 'is it or is it not necessary to kill patients who can't be cured?'
However not everybody will have an easy death. Some terminal illness cannot be controlled, even with the best of care and the strongest of drugs. Other distressing symptoms, which come with diseases, such as sickness, no mobility, breathlessness and fever cannot always be relieved. Pain is not always the issue - yet quality of life is.
People should not be left lingering in pain. They should not have to suffer when death is inevitable. People can have the option to commit suicide, although it is a tragic and individual act. However euthanasia is not a form of suicide. It is not a private act; you have the support of family and friends. Euthanasia is about letting a loved one be assisted to save them from a slow and painful death.
All of life is a struggle and a gamble. At the gaming table of life, nobody ever knows what the outcome will be. "Indeed, humans are noblest when they persist in the face of the inevitable. Look at our literature. Reflects to our heroes. They are not those who have capitulated but those who have endured. No, there's nothing undignified against being hollowed out by a catastrophic disease, about writhing in pain, about wishing it would end. The indignity lies in capitulation."
* D. Brock, 1993, "Voluntary Active Euthanasia", Hastings Center Report 22, no. 2 (1993) pp. 10-22.
* M. Burleigh, 1994, Death and Deliverance: Euthanasia in Germany c. 1900-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
* Commission on the Study of Medical Practice Concerning Euthanasia: Medical Decisions Concerning the End of Life (The Hague: SdU, 1991) -- otherwise known as 'The Remmelink Report'.
* J. Griffiths, A. Bood, and H. Weyers, 1998, Euthanasia and Law in The Netherlands (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press).
* Brody Baruch :Life and death decision making (New York; oxford university)
Other Internet Resources
* Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalized, authored by Luke Gormally (Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics)
* Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, (Oregon Department of Human Services)
* Voluntary Euthanasia Society of the Netherlands
* Euthanasia and End-of-Life Decisions, (Ethics Updates, L. Hinman, University of San Diego)