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End of Life Decisions

The preservation of human life is considered an ultimate goal due to its value as a foundation of morality and as a pillar of ethics. Many cultures and ethics have held this notion over history due to the sacred nature of life. For this reason, life is cherished, and people desire to prolong their lives to an ideal old age, and then probably have a painless death when sleeping. Though such wishes have been granted to some, sometimes death comes after a long struggle with painful conditions or after the body deteriorates, and they cannot do anything on their own. As a result, some wish that their death were hastened. To preserve such a life, one might argue that all available medical technology should be harnessed. However, the inherent pain and financial burdens on the patient, family, and society, might become unbearable that one may opt to rid themselves and their family the burden. As Therese et al. (2014) elucidate, medical practitioners, strive to prolong and help patients survive even amid chronic illnesses. However, when the quality of life deteriorates due to discomforting and excruciating pain, life loses its significance. People, such as George, who is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), wish that their lives were released through euthanasia. On the contrary, as Familusi (2017) elucidates, religious and social spheres, such as Christianity, believe in the sacredness attached to human life, and they forbid any termination, even at will. Therefore, it is essential to assess whether euthanasia is morally and ethically acceptable from a Christian worldview.

Euthanasia is a Greek word that means mercy killing or good death. Familusi (2017) indicates that it originates from the desire to bring death to a willing patient by depriving them of the treatment given to reduce their pain and prolong their lives. Besides, euthanasia is considered the act of terminating the life of a hopelessly injured or sick person painlessly, accounting for the mercy (Familusi, 2017). According to Lapierre et al. (2018), by terminating people’s lives through euthanasia, their integrity, dignity, respect, and honor are preserved. Further, euthanasia indicates free will, consent, and autonomy over one’s life.

There are different reasons advanced in support of euthanasia, ranging from freedom of choice, economics, personhood, and quality of life. For instance, George’s condition is expected to worsen, making him unable to move, speak, eat, and breathe, all of which are significant life experiences. Being wheel bound and having a life expectancy of three or four years makes George’s condition devastating. According to Familusi (2017), Joseph Fletcher argues that it is erroneous to indicate that life is valuable and that it should be preserved no matter the cost. In his argument, Fletcher indicated that comatose, deformed, and patients severely maimed by diseases and accidents can still be alive. However, their families and friends do not experience any joy, nor do their lives have any value or meaning. As Familusi (2017) indicates, Fletcher feels that spending resources and money on such individuals is pointless and that such lives are better terminated than preserved.

On the contrary, Christians are fervently opposed to euthanasia. They base their arguments on the belief that life is a gift from God and that humans are created in God’s image. In this case, nobody or anything has the mandate to allow the termination of an innocent being, be it a fetus, infant, adult, older adult, a person suffering from terminal illnesses, or even one close to dying (Chakraborty et al., 2018). Additionally, Christians believe that no one has the right to request for an act of killing, whether for him/herself, for a person they have been entrusted their care, and they cannot consent to such as action, whether implicitly or explicitly and that no authority has the mandate to allow execution of such an act. According to Chakraborty et al. (2018), euthanasia or any act close to it violates the divine law, which remains an offense to human dignity, an attack on humanity, and a crime against life.

Christians believe that the belief that they have the legitimate reason to request for death or request it on behalf of others results from personal reasons or for being convinced by others that such actions are legitimate. While their guilt may subside or entirely not exist in such cases, the termination does not change the truth that the action was killing, which is not morally and ethically acceptable. An article from St. Joseph University titled Religious Perspectives on Euthanasia informs that different Christian denominations have varying ideologies. For instance, Catholicism believes that the pleas made by these individuals should not be misinterpreted. Instead, the desire for euthanasia should be considered as an anguished plea for love and help. Hence, sick persons should be offered plenty of love, the supernatural, and humanly warmth that should be rendered by family, parents, children, and practitioners.

On the other hand, protestant denominations have differing opinions regarding the concept of euthanasia. For instance, the Anglican church is strongly opposed to the practice of euthanasia since it believes that such actions contradict the conscience of Christians. Similarly, Mormons also view euthanasia as a violation of God’s purpose for everyone. In their belief, Mormons acknowledge that people suffer differently. However, their opinion on the sanctity of human life reinforces their strong belief in allowing life to take the natural course. Unlike the previously highlighted denomination, the United Church of Christ church accepts that humans have the autonomy and freedom to determine the path their lives take.

Thus, they endorse the legalization of physician-assisted deaths, but they believe that euthanasia amounts to murder. The United Church of Christ is a pro-choice advocate. While the church does not directly promote euthanasia, it believes in the autonomous decision in such cases.

Some scholars also believe that euthanasia is unacceptable since it contradicts legal traditions, religious beliefs, and medical ethics by undervaluing the plight of patients suffering and dying individuals. For instance, Therese et al. (2014) enlighten that euthanasia is profoundly incompatible with the healing role of a physician, and it would be impossible or difficult to control. Additionally, these authors warn about the severe social ramifications attributed to euthanasia. As a result, Therese et al. (2014) suggest that instead of opting for euthanasia, practitioners should aggressively respond to patient’s needs at the end of life. During this period, patients should be given the utmost care and should not be abandoned. They should receive adequate pain control, emotional support, good communication, respect for autonomy, and comfort care. When given these virtues in plenty, even patients who autonomously express their willingness to partake in euthanasia can cease, since they understand the importance of these actions to the people who express them, and that their lives are more valued.

Boudreau and Somerville’s (2014) argument supports the Christian perspective about life and death. First, the two scholars understand that euthanasia is an emotionally charged word that has been twitched to fit the needs of pro-euthanasia. In reality, euthanasia generally implies inflicting death (Boudreau & Somerville, 2014). Evading that notion simply extends the medical acts into an abuse. Both the law and medicine ethics confide to the fact that intentional killing is forbidden. Similar to the Catholic Church, which believes that people believed to need euthanasia are vulnerable, Boudreau, and Somerville (2014) believe that the old, frail, and physically disabled individuals are the victims. Instead of thinking how to end their lives, ethics and morals dictate that such individuals are protected rather than placing them in danger. Furthermore, it is paramount to consider the treatment vulnerable people receive within society. An ethical ground is based not on how the powerful, most privileged, and strongest, are treated, but on how the weakest and most vulnerable are treated. George, and people who fall in this category, fall under the latter group.

Euthanasia is a contentious concept that pervades social, religious, professional values, morals, and ethics. There exist two worldviews with some people, including scholars and religions, who believe that the action is legitimate and should be performed when certain conditions are met. In contrast, other fervently oppose the act based on personal, religious, and ethical grounds. Religious groups, in particular Christians, utilize the principle carrier that life is divine, and it should be respected. On the contrary, secular society believes that medicine and law are value-carrying, value-creating, and consensus-forming. For this reason, pro-euthanasia believe that autonomy should be granted in such life staking instances. One should decide whether to live with excruciating pain or prolonged suffering or simply request a physician to end their life.

Cherry (2018) indicates that it is crucial to recognize the spiritual importance of life to both the patient and the physician. Some physicians do not consent to euthanasia as an ethical practice due to the oaths they take for some ethical and religious beliefs. As a result, Cherry holds that just as many religions disapprove of euthanasia, it is crucial to assess this concept from a moral and spiritual concept. Further, the fact that a patient desires or make a request for euthanasia does not make the action any moral. Therefore, irrespective of the arguments made for euthanasia by scholars, atheists, and ethicists, the law and medical ethics disregard it as desirable.

However, the law, medicine, and religion intersect at a certain point, which lays the foundation for this paper’s conclusion. The law prohibits suicide and killing of other people. Committing such an action is punishable by law. Similarly, medicine requires that health practitioners take an oath that binds them not to inflict death. Christianity is strongly opposed to euthanasia. An intersection of these factors culminates to the profound conclusion that euthanasia is both undesirable and harmful, especially since it is offered to vulnerable people. Hence, George should not be given euthanasia. Instead, his family, friends, and healthcare professionals tending to him should accord him the love, affection, and care he deserves during this challenging moment.

 

 

References

Chakraborty, R., El-Jawahri, A. R., Litzow, M. R., Syrjala, K. L., Parnes, A. D., & Hashmi, S. K. (2017). A systematic review of religious beliefs about major end-of-life issues in the five major world religions. Palliative & supportive care, 15(5), 609–622. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1478951516001061

Cherry, M. J. (2018). Physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia: how not to die as a christian. Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality, 24(1), 1–16, https://doi.org/10.1093/cb/cbx021

Familusi, O. O. (2017). A religious response to the paradox of euthanasia and sanctity of life. Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies, 27(1), 123-141. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ibjhs/article/view/187140

Lapierre, S., Dransart, D., St-Amant, K., Dubuc, G., Houle, M., …, Maggiori, C. (2018). Religiosity and the wish of older adults for physician-assisted suicide. Religions, 9(3), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9030066

Saint Joseph University. (2011). Religious perspectives on euthanasia. Institute of Clinical Bioethics. Retrieved from https://sites.sju.edu/icb/religious-perspectives-on-euthanasia/

Therese, M. A., Rukumani, J., Mano, P. P., Ponrani, & Nirmala. (2014). A study to assess the level of attitude towards euthanasia among health personnel. Nitte University Journal of Health Science, 4(4), 18-23. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0040-1703825.pdf

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