What are the religious and ethical considerations to the issue of euthanasia

The word euthanasia originated from the Greek language; eu means “good” and thantos means “death”. One meaning given to the word is “the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies”. The term euthanasia normally implies that the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit suicide. There are many different types of euthanasia these are: passive euthanasia which is the hastening of a persons death by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course e.g. removing life support equipment. Another form of euthanasia is active euthanasia; this involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. A well known example was the mercy killing in 1998 of a patient with ALS by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan physician.There is also physician assisted suicide, this is where a physician supplies information / or the means of committing suicide e.g. a prescription for a lethal dose of sleeping pills, or a supply of carbon monoxide gas.Involuntary euthanasia which seems to cause the most outrage is where the killing of a person takes place in which the person has not explicitly requested aid in dying. This is most often done to patients who are in a persistent vegetative state and will probably never recover.Euthanasia raises both moral and religious issues. These issues can affect both the suffering individual and the person who carries out the termination.An Issue which kuhse brought up which relates to both passive and active euthanasia is what is the distinction between killing and letting die?Some may see the distinction being the person who kills causes death whereas the person does nothing is simply letting nature run its course.Glover stated that when looking at this distinction it is necessary to look at “the degree to which they are expensive, unusual, difficult, and painful or dangerous. These are called ordinary and extraordinary means.The main argument is argument of the santicty of life approach against the autonomy of the individual. The church believes that life is sacred and dissagree’s will any of the following crimes against life such as murder , suicide,abortion etc. God gave life to us as a gift and which ‘we are called apon to preserve it and make it fruitful'(decalaration on Euthanasia,1980) Human life is a gift from God. We are stewards of this gift, not owners. It is our responsibility to nurture it, respect it, and protect it. Human life has value regardless of its nature or quality. Life has special dignity and worth. Human life is a “trust” and not a personal “possession” over which we have full control. No one can claim total mastery over one’s own life or another’s life. Every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships and can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. God alone has sovereignty over life and death. The taking of one’s life is not a human right and intentionally causing death is a rejection of God’s sovereignty over life.To take someones life opposes gods love for that person , and rejects the duty of the person to live according to god’s plan. The catholic church makes it clear that it is wrong to ask someone to assist your death , as it questions the violation of the divine law. It is an offence against the dignity of the human person and a crime against humanity. The church believes we do not have the freedom to decide wiether we live or die as it is gods choice and only his.We were made for his purpose and we should fulfil that purpose through life.According to the catechism of the catholic church ” an act of omission which , of itself or by intention , causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes to a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his creator”. Here the church once again expresses that any form of killing is deemed as wrong.Even in the modern catholic view is against euthanasia . Pope paul the second 1995, in the evangelium vitae quotes “Euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing “perversion” of mercy.” This showing the modern negative view.The docturine of faith quotes life as being “something sacred” and the argument is shown clearly in the story of creation (Genisis 1-2:4)The main argument put up against this is the autonomy (Argued for by john stuart mill , utilitarian) John stuart argues that I matters that do not concern others , individuals should have complete autonomy . Which is the idea that the person has compelete control over what happen to their body life as well as death.Utilitarianists believe autonomy is a liberty of action .Autonomy is defined as the absence of the use of force or the threat of force to make someone do what they would otherwise be unwilling to do. They argue that it is a freedom of choice. Autonomy is defined as the presence of options. Mill: liberty of action and thought are needed for happiness since such liberty develops requisite intellectual traits and character traits .Autonomy not a fundamental value or first principle (as for Kant) but is an indispensable means to the end of happiness .Autonomy involves a person choosing their own plans for life, making their own decisions without manipulation by others And it exercises firmness and self control in acting on their decisions.The author of such books as final exit quoted “the right to choose to die when in advanced terminal or hopeless illness is the ultimate civil liberty.” — Derek HumphryAdvocate for voluntary euthanasia argue that this should be an option for any competent adult.Quality of life argument links in with the autonomy argument as people say that human beings should be able and have the right to live dignified lives and so the ends of their lives should be dignified too. They say it isnt a matter of pain Many argue the fact that euthanaisa maintains quality of life . They argue that humans have the right to live dignified lives aswell as dignified ends. This isnt a matter of pain but self respect. If the standard of a person is such that they no longer want to continue it then they should be able to end their lives.Having control over their lives is seen to enhance human dignity .People who support the concept of euthanasia may look at the QOL (Quality of life ) of the individual when deciding if a person should go ahead with euthanasia. This ultiltarian approach takes into account the possible length of life , the patients state of mind, the resources needed and available and the amount of suffering that they are experencing .People take this view on euthanasia as they believe a person should be able to die in a pain free and dignified way. In america in the medical proffesion they used a system called (QALYS) quality adjusted life year schedules. This enables doctors to asses the QOL of the patient in terms of the number of valuable years left to the person.Most people would like to imagin their family members and ourselves having the least painful death and some argue this for a reason to make euthanasia legal. Euthanaisa shows mercy for those suffereing with intolerable pain from an incureable disease. The humanist Thomas More (1478-1535) argued that when a patient suffers ‘a tourturing pain , so that there is no hope , either of recovery or ease they may choose to die since they cannot bear to live in misery. Euthanasia is a merciful opportunity to end uneccesary suffering.The christian belief argues that suffering is not unnecceary but suffering has a special place in God’s plan. Just as Jesus died on the cross, and human suffereing at the end of life connects us to the suffering that jesus experienced on the cross. This doesn’t mean that catholics cannot take pain killers and should activily seek pain, but it does grant suffering the possiblility of having a positive effect on the individual . It provides that final chance to get as close to god before you die. Thomos wood stated “suffering can have moral effects and can have a meaning in the context of a life lived in faith.”There is now understood to be a difference in the way the line is drawn between ordinary and extraordinary means by medical science on the one hand, and moral theology on the other. In medicine, a means is ordinary which is scientifically established, statistically successful, and reasonably available. If any of these conditions is lacking, the means is considered to be extraordinary. In moral theology, a means is ordinary if it is beneficial, useful or not unreasonably burdensome (physically or psychologically) to the person. The docturine of faith(1980) gives us the best idea of the church’s view on ordinary and extra ordinary means. The docturine of faith defines medical treatment into two different ways, which are proportionate and disproportionate. An example of this would be if the action on the patient was relativly pain free and would definitly provide a better quality of life for the patient it would be seen to be proportionate. But if the action prooved to be painful and would not quarentee a better quality of life it is seen to be dispropotionate.The catechism of the catholic church believes that “discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate” meaning the church believes that refusing this extraordinary act can be seen justifiable. An example of this would be a person being kept alive through artificial means such as a life support.The church also accepts the double affect law.The double effect argument links in with the beliefs in ordinary and extra ordinary means.This argument stresses greatly that there is a huge difference between foreseeing an event and directly willing it to happen. Christians believe that in certain cases the double effect argument can be justifiable.For example if the death is caused by drugs which were intended to relieve pain then this is not seen as deliberate killing because as the docturine of faith (1980) expresses “death is in no way intended or sought , even if the risk of it is reasonably taken”Many ethical views are held among the church and outside of it. Such views as Kant’s deontological view are very similar to the church. When referring to the subject of suicide Kant quotes “I cannot, therefore, dispose in any way of a man in my own person so as to mutilate him, damage him or kill him” Kant believes that using death as a means of escape of suffering is always morally wrong.Ethicists that agree with the churches views on the sanctity of life and other Christian arguments are Germain Grisez and Joseph M Boyle Jr. They challenge the basic assumptions of pro euthanasia such as the assumption that there is a distinction between bodily life and personal life. In other words they reject the view that one can cease to be a person and yet still be bodily alive. They reject the view that it is the distinctively human component which is not yet present in the unborn or newly born and which is lost irreversibly comatose. The absence of their personal component is what makes one a candidate for euthanasia. The human being is one and bodily life is good in itself. They also reject the consequentialist position that consequences determine the rightness or wrongness of human actions. Anscombre expressed the christian belief well and stated ” the distinction between the intended , and the merely foreseen , effects of a volunatry action is indeed absolutely essential to christian ethics.”.Daniel c maguire agree’s with the Griez and Boyle as far as life should be considered sacred yet Maquire has a proportionists position Maguire believes that life is a basic but not an absolute good. One is bound to respect life , but no one is obligated to prolong it in evry circumstance. He also argues that issues such as euthansia can only be handeled adequetly within the broad context of complete ethical theory. Maguire rejects the idea of a kind of fatalistic theism which forbidsexpanding the human domain over dying because the time of death is organised by God alone – this implies humans are god’s property. If we should not intervene then medicibe should be immoral, there is no essential difference between ending life and preserving it. Termanating life under certain circumstances may be good so long as a greater good than phsical life is being served.Another scholar who takes a utilitarian approach to the subject of euthanasia is Rachels. Rachels states ” It would seem , therefor , that , at least on a theoretical level , we cannot rule out the possibility that direct active euthanasia might I exceptional cases be justified” Rachels gives a case in favour of active euthanasia on the grounds that passive euthanasia is often seen to be aceptable. Rachels belief is that because the outcomes are both the same – the person dies the morality of both of these forms cannot be distinguished. Rachels also believes that there is no moral significance between killing and letting someone die. Because the motives and concequences are both the same wether it be active or passive.Many people who agree with euthanasia are more likely to go against the churches absolutest view and go in favour of the idea of the right of automony as it is left up to the responsiblilty of the person who it concerns.This may be true in certain places , and we are aware that euthanasia takes place even though it is not legal but in the eyes of the law it is not left up to the person.The law causes problems when euthanaisa come in to play as it is still seen as sucide in some places, and as sucide is a crime it is against the law to commit euthanasia. The law sees it as to kill another person dilibertly is murder , even if the person involved asks them. If you assist a sucide it can be punishable for up to 14 years inprisonment ( legal position stated March 2002)It is however legal in holland and is thought upon by the public to be okay. Although others are afraid it will be legalised in britain and fear that if it was made legal , the law would be abused and innocent people would die who didn’t want to. Also the dessicion to die not only affects the person but also others around that person such as family and friends.There are also political objections which is that our individual right to autonomy against law must be balanced against the need to make santitiy of life an important , intrinsic and abstract value of the law.Many scholars agree that life is sacred and a gift from god and when making life and death descions they should be though out and handleled with extra special care.Singer another person who takes a utilitarian approach towards euthanasia Is one of many scholars who agree with the autonomous view. Singer srgues that humans have certain rights and if nessceray they should be allowed to make their own descions on life and death. Singer see’s it as an essential part of having human rights and as he states ” one can waive one’s rights if one so chooses.” He also argues that if a person wishes to die then they should be given respect from others and if nesscecary others should help assist. Singer uses the QOL argument to qualify his belief that euthanasia should be seen to be aceptable upon defective infants and people with serious mental illesses. Singer goes against Griez ad Boyle and says that infants and people with mental illnesses such as brain stem damage lack the rationality , autonomy and self -conciousness of normal people , therefore killing them cannot be equated with the killingh normal human beings.Scholars such as Curran take a consequentialist approach when dealing with euthanaisa. Curran accepts life as a primordial value and again agrees life is sacred and deserves respect. Curran quotes ” I agree with the traditional argument against euthanasia that man does not have full domination over his life and therefore cannot postitively interfere to take his life … Man does have some domination over the dying process because he can as a matter of fact shorten the time of his dying by not using or discontinuing even readily available means to prolong life.” Curran argues that he does not see euthanasia as taking full control of a person’s life as the dying process indicates that the human life has reached its limits .Although not all people completely agree with all types of euthanasia , the majority of theses people do argue for voluntary euthanasia. They believe that voluntary euthanaisa is not murder as killing a human that does not want to live is not wrong. It isnt wrong to help the dying to die , because they are actually dyingOther people completely disagree and say that all euthanasia is killing and that killing is forbidden not only in the law but in some religious scriptures. In the Hebrew scriptres (The old testement) the sixth commandment states ” Thou shall not kill” and this is including euthanasia as the christians class it as killing. The prohibitation of killing is a moral absolute of christianity , judaism and islam..The churches view has always stated that it wrong to kill a human being as stated in these quotes: “it is never licit to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it, hanging between life and death… nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”. St. AugustineAs well as moral and religious views there are many practical issues that are taken into account.If euthanasia were to be legalised many people would be outraged for a number of issus such as : Some are worried that the system will be abused and just as people will have control over their lives they will also have control over other’s lives and what they see to be qualitive or not. Would elderly relatives who think they are burdens to their families want to be euthanasised? J Glover (1977) notes that people in these situations sometimes commit suicide.On the other hand they could be presseured into asking to be euthinased by family or friends due to things such as money or housing. Lord McColl , the professor of surgery at Guy’s Hospital , london said there was evidence from the netherlands to show that “the current practice of euthanasia is out of control” .Advocates of “the right to die” often point to Holland as a model for how doctor -assisted voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients can work without abuse. Yet people still have doubts.Kuhse agrees that the the following concern could take place in our society if euthanasia were to be legalised.The wedge argument ( or slippery slope argument ) maintains that euthanasia is the thin end of the wedge – that once one accepts this principle, the door is open for all sorts of other procedures and abuses including infanticide. The argument is that euthanasia involves crossing a line and once this line crossed the consequences are unforseeable.Oderberg states his view as ” It is a mistake to claim that we are at the edge of a slippery slope to mass murder . we are on that slope, one that has already traversed by other societies . This time however , we have technologhy and expertise far in advance of anything of the nazis”The euthanasia debate is strongly influenced on what is the quality of life.Another argument against euthanasia by the sanctity of life supporters have put up is that the nazi extermenation is a terrible example of what can happen once we give the state the power to kill innocent human beings.Singers argues against the use of the nazi analogy as he says ” it is misleading and the sanctity of human life argument collapses as soon as they are questioned , it is the refusal to accept euthanasia which , in some cases , is horrific.Another problem that may arise if euthanasia were to be legalised is mistakes. Can we be sure that mistakes wil not occur ? Suppose someone chooses death because they have been diagnosed with a fatal incurable and painful illness. Then after the person has been euthanased , it becomes apparnt that the diagnosis was incorrect (hooker 1997) Even if we could ensure that mistakes would not take place the worry of how it will affect moral issues such as religion in the medical system. For example is a catholic doctor were to practise euthanasia they would be completley going against all there own beliefs this may lead to refusal’s from doctors to partake.Worries such as how would the doctors come to the conclusion that someone should be euthanased? How many doctors would it take to determine the QOL of the person.Singer beleieves there should be two independent witnesses at the even , but two people can still make mistakes.People have different views on what happens after life ends. Some like Dr Kervorkians Mercitron believe that merely just rot. Athesists will have very different attitudes towards euthanasia compared with a catholic. A Catholic believes that when they die its is their time to go and that God is calling them to be with him in heaven.And although euthanasia offers a way out that is your own descions and pain free others such as catholics and other faiths may find it dignified to have an undecided death and will take any pain that comes with it .The isssue of euthanasia will always cause moral and religious arguments both for and against it is a persons own desion to believe in what they feel is right and the best way to handle a situation. We must all respect the fact that people have difference of opinions and choices and we should do whatever we can to help situations and offer hope and reasurrance in are own way.

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