Religious Perspectives on Euthanasia

Death is one of the most important things that religions deal with. All faiths offer meaning and explanations for death and dying; all faiths try to find a place for death and dying within human experience. Most religions disapprove of euthanasia.

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Some of them absolutely 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 thing than euthanasia. Religions are opposed to euthanasia for several reasons. These reasons include god has forbidden it, human life is sacred, human life is special.

Buddhists are not unanimous in their view of euthanasia, and the teachings of the Buddha don’t explicitly deal with it. Most Buddhists (like almost everyone else) are against involuntary euthanasia. Their position on voluntary euthanasia is less clear. Buddhism places great stress on non-harm, and on avoiding the ending of life. The reference is to live any life, so the intentional ending of life seems against Buddhist teaching and voluntary euthanasia should be forbidden. Certain codes of Buddhist monastic law explicitly forbid it. Buddhists regard death as a transition. The deceased person will be reborn to a new life, whose quality will be the result of their karma. This produces two problems. We don’t know what the next life is going to be like. If the next life is going to be even worse than the life that the sick person is presently enduring it would clearly be wrong on a utilitarian basis to permit euthanasia, as that shortens the present bad state of affairs in favor of an even worse one. The second problem is that shortening life interferes with the working out of karma, and alters the karmic balance resulting from the shortened life. Another difficulty comes if we look at voluntary euthanasia as a form of suicide. The Buddha himself showed tolerance of suicide by monks in two cases. The Japanese Buddhist tradition includes many stories of suicide by monks, and suicide was used as a political weapon by Buddhist monks during the Vietnam war. But these were monks, and that makes a difference. In Buddhism, the way life ends has a profound impact on the way the new life will begin. So, a person’s state of mind at the time of death is important – their thoughts should be selfless and enlightened, free of anger, hate or fear. This suggests that suicide (and so euthanasia) is only approved for people who have achieved enlightenment and that the rest of us should avoid it (Religions Buddhism 2009).

Christians are mostly against euthanasia. The arguments are usually based on the beliefs that life is given by God, and that human beings are made in God’s image. Some churches also emphasize the importance of not interfering with the natural process of death. The general Christian view is that life is a gift from God. Human beings are valuable because they are made in God’s image. The process of dying is spiritually important and should not be disrupted. They think it is wrong to interfere with the process of dying, as this would interrupt the process of the spirit moving towards God. Christians believe that the intrinsic dignity and value of human lives means that the value of each human life is identical. Valuing human beings as equal just because they are human beings has clear implications for thinking about euthanasia. Patients in a persistent vegetative state, although seriously damaged, remain living human beings, and so their intrinsic value remains the same as anyone else’s. So it would be wrong to treat their lives as worthless and to conclude that they ‘would be better off dead’. Patients who are old or sick, and who are near the end of earthly life have the same value as any other human being. People who have mental or physical handicaps have the same value as any other human being (Religions Christianity 2009). The church believes that each person should enter the dying process with all its mysteries with trust in God and in solidarity with their fellow human beings; they should die with the dignity of letting themselves be loved unconditionally. The church regards it as morally acceptable to refuse extraordinary and aggressive medical means to preserve life. Refusing such treatment is not euthanasia but a proper acceptance of the human condition in the face of death and Since it is morally wrong to commit suicide it is morally wrong to help someone commit suicide. (Religions Christianity 2009).

There are several Hindu points of view on euthanasia. Most Hindus would say that a doctor should not accept a patient’s request for euthanasia since this will cause the soul and body to be separated at an unnatural time. The result will damage the karma of both doctor and patient. Other Hindus believe that euthanasia cannot be allowed because it breaches the teaching of ahimsa (doing no harm). However, some Hindus say that by helping to end a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfilling their moral obligations. As in Buddhism, Hindu views of euthanasia and suicide are grounded in the doctrines of karma, moksa, and ahimsa. Karma is the net consequence of good and bad deeds in a person’s life, which then determines the nature of the next life. Ongoing accumulation of bad karma prevents moksa, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, which is the ultimate goal of Hinduism. Ahimsa is a fundamental principle in Indian religions and means doing harm to no other being. (Religionfacts 2016). Suicide is generally prohibited in Hinduism, on the basis that it disrupts the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth and therefore yields bad karma. According to Hindu beliefs, if a person commits suicide, he neither goes to the hell nor the heaven, but remains in the earth consciousness as a bad spirit and wanders aimlessly till he completes his actual and allotted lifetime. Thereafter he goes to hell and suffers more severely. In the end, he returns to the earth again to complete his previous karma and start from there once again. Suicide puts an individual’s spiritual clock in reverse (Religion facts 2016).

Most people think unbearable pain is the main reason people seek euthanasia, but some surveys in the USA and the Netherlands showed that less than a third of requests for euthanasia were because of severe pain. Terminally ill people can have their quality of life severely damaged by physical conditions such as incontinence, nausea and vomiting, breathlessness, paralysis and difficulty in swallowing. Psychological factors that cause people to think of euthanasia include depression, fearing loss of control or dignity, feeling a burden, or dislike of being dependent. The mental and physical strain on the patient’s body is something to take into consideration. There are many arguments for euthanasia. The compassion argument is if someone is in extreme pain and is going to die soon anyway and there is no chance for a cure when it is compassionate to both them and their family to end their life. The choice argument is that it is our own life, and no one had the right to tell us what to do with it if we are not interfering with the welfare of others. Then there is the economic argument where the cost of keeping terminally ill patients or brain-dead patients alive for as long as possible is driving up the health care costs for those who are only curably ill.

The main alternative to euthanasia is palliative sedation. In contrast to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, the intent of palliative sedation is not to cause death, but to relieve suffering. Palliative sedation is only given to relieve severe, unrelieved suffering, and it is only utilized when a patient is already close to death (Morrow 2018). The intention of palliative sedation is to relieve refractory symptoms, never to kill the patient. When killing the patient or hastening the patient’s death is the intention, what is done is not palliative sedation but slow euthanasia. In order to achieve symptom control during palliative sedation, the right medication is given at the right dose (Broeckaert, 2011). The only problem with this is Pain medication is often regulated, only allowing for a certain dosage over an allotted time span. When this dosage is not effective, patients are either in excruciating pain or abuses of the drug occur due to increases in the dosage. This increase in dosage can cause adverse side effects. Thus, palliative care is not effective in all cases and alternatives such as physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia should be available to patients as an option.

My approach to this subject is one of Utilitarianism. It is the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. The stand utilitarian’s takes on this subject are the “killing” of terminally ill patients ultimately allows more attention to be paid to patients who are in greater need of more immediate care. Thus, it is in the benefit of more people, in the end, to lose the one terminally ill patient in order to provide better and faster care for those who are not (Rampages 2015). When prolonging the life of the patient is not increasing the net happiness of everyone. The patient is suffering, and the family and friends are upset seeing the patient suffering. The family has a burden of paying for all the medicals bill. Utilitarians believe that any action should cause the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Since Euthanasia will increase happiness and decrease pain at the same time, then it is morally correct. Also, utilitarians do believe that one has complete sovereign over their body and any decisions to be made about one’s body are up to them and no other authority. If a person volunteers to die with their own will, then it is their right to make his decision and people, even the government, has no right to interfere.

At the end of the day, it should be the choice of the patient to choose what to do with their life. Patients should not be forced to be kept alive in immense pain for the sake of living. The terminally ill can view life in two different ways. First is the seize the day and life to the fullest. The other view is counting the clock until they can pass. For them, it’s not about living but finding a way to not be in pain at all hours of the day. In the end, a terminally-ill patient deserves the right to a shorter life with dignity above one that is longer and worse than what death would bring.

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