The Importance Of Euthanasia In Religion

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Euthanasia, also known as “mercy killing,” is defined as an “intentional ending of the patient’s life by a physician, usually by lethal injection” (Religion Facts). A difference must be made between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and between active vs. passive euthanasia. In a sense, euthanasia may be compared with homicide, as death is a direct result of the action of physician, while in doctor-assisted suicide the physician is only giving the patient the means to end his/her own life (could be compared with suicide). Of course, these concepts have slightly different connotations, and it depends on the personal worldview of an individual how to interpret them. On the other hand, the distinguishing characteristics between active…show more content…
Because “culture…creates the context within which individuals experience life and comprehend moral meaning of illness, suffering, or death” (Blank, 2011), it is helpful to find answers to questions about euthanasia in culture, particularly in religion. The three monotheistic Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have developed clear positions regarding euthanasia. Despite individual variations, generally all three religions agree upon the intrinsic value and sacredness of life as a gift from God, upon the God’s authorship and sovereignty in the timing of life and death (it is in the hands of God), and upon the fact that the preservation of life is superior to that of quality of life no matter what the surrounding circumstances are. They also have a common permissive attitude toward interrupting the aggressive treatment and allowing the nature to take its course in situations when there is no hope for recovery, the patient experiences severe pain levels unrelieved by medications, and the patient’s level of functioning is very poor. The lethal dose of pain killers is forgiven only in situations when the clear intent was to relieve pain and not to cause death. Each religion advises the provision of holistic care to the patient including assessment for and treatment of depression and other psychological and social factors that might predispose the patient to lose hope and to wish his own death. A final thought about the mercy and compassion as intention behind performing euthanasia would be that expressed by Doerflinger (1995), “It is hard to imagine a stronger endorsement of the need for good care of the dying and better pain control. But this vision is inconsistent with the idea that we may sometimes end suffering by ending life.

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