Alice Roper

‘Christians must never support euthanasia.’ Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view.The sanctity of life is a very important concept for Christians. They regard life as a gift from God, and believe that to destroy it contravenes God’s will (Exodus 20:13 features the commandment from God ‘Thou shalt not kill’, which informs this belief). According to the Church of Scotland, ‘Christians believe that our human worth does not depend upon… the quality of life but on our status as being made in God’s likeness’: in other words, life still has value even if the quality of an individual’s life is reduced. The view of the Roman Catholic Church is that euthanasia is a violation of natural law; it ‘represents the rejection of God’s sovereignty over life and death’, and is therefore never acceptable.The idea that it is for God, rather than for human beings, to bring life to a close is therefore central to many Christians’ beliefs, especially Roman Catholics. As Saint Paul put it: ‘None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s’. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats teaches Christians that it is important to look after people whatever their needs. Many Christians believe that this includes caring for the disabled: to terminate a life on the grounds of disability is not acceptable in God’s eyes. It is not for others to judge the quality of another person’s life.However, a number of more liberal Christians feel that in certain circumstances forms of euthanasia, for example passive euthanasia, can be supported. Joseph Fletcher states that ‘the claim that we ought always to do everything we can to preserve any patient’s life as long as possible is now discredited… this view is held straight across the board of religious traditions’. These Christians argue that the unnecessary prolongation of life is as morally wrong as the premature ending of life, because personality, dignity and well-being are just as important as, if not more important than, biological survival.The central Christian principle of agape (‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’) must also be taken into account. Some Christians believe that it is an act of love to help someone in great pain to end his or her suffering. They think that the law against euthanasia is cruel as it forces individuals to continue to live in unbearable pain. In contrast, however, the Roman Catholic Church continues to find all forms of euthanasia unacceptable. It regards suffering as ‘a factor of possible personal growth’, and believes that ‘true “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it doesn’t kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear.’I do not believe that committed Christians are able to support active euthanasia as this concept runs counter to so much of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life. In their view, euthanasia is an attempt to ‘play God’, which is wholly unacceptable according to their beliefs. However, passive euthanasia is, I think, an acceptable practice from the Christian viewpoint (with the exception of committed Roman Catholics), firstly because within Christian teaching the unnatural prolongation of life can be regarded as a form of ‘playing God’ as much as active euthanasia, and secondly because the Christian principle of agape should be pursued wherever possible.

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