Euthanasia Debates, Death and Dying
Subject: Medical Ethics
Introduction The issue of voluntary euthanasia continues to elicit heated debates from society. While some people have embraced the concept of painless death to avoid becoming a burden as dependents, others disagree with the issue of taking one’s life. The contention is usually based on religious views concerning whether individuals can decide the fate of life. Most religions believe in a Supreme Being who has the ultimate authority on what happens to human life.
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Therefore, followers of these religions make decisions within the confines of such dogmas, thus disagreeing with the concept of assisted death. This issue is a moral dilemma to most individuals like George, who cannot stand the thought of being a prisoner in their bodies. Assisted death would be a reprieve for George, but making that choice means violating some religious tenets, which may have eternal repercussions. This paper explores how George’s situation would be interpreted within Christianity and Buddhism before taking a personal stand on the issue. Interpretation of the Nature of George’s Malady and Suffering Christianity is against voluntary euthanasia because life is given by God, and thus He is the only one who can take it (Shelley & Miller, 2009). Suffering within Christianity circles is interpreted to imply different things, including the view that God allows people to suffer in a bid to become better human beings or to glorify Himself when he ultimately brings healing (Beville, 2014). Therefore, George’s sickness and suffering may be interpreted as God’s will. For instance, in the Bible, God deliberately allowed Job to suffer in the hands of the devil (Job 1: 6-12, NIV). Just like George, Job suffered from debilitating disease to the point that his wife encouraged him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). However, Job did not lose hope or faith, and ultimately he was healed. Christianity would use this case to explain why George is suffering beyond the reality of physical malady. In another case, Jesus was asked why a certain man was born blind. He replied that it happened for God’s power to be manifested once He healed the man (John 9: 1-7). Similarly, George’s sickness would be viewed as a way of God waiting to manifest His power and glory when He miraculously heals him. In Buddhism, the second noble truth, or Samudāya would be used to explain George’s sickness and suffering. According to this principle, he may be suffering due to greed and desire, ignorance and delusion, or hatred and destructive urges (Nydahl, 2013). Therefore, the sickness would not be caused by a disease with causative agents as understood in scientific terms. As such, he would be suffering due to ignorance. However, this form of ignorance is not associated with one’s level of education or intelligence. It occurs when people fail to see the truth of issues and the reality surrounding them. The Value Of George’s Life As A Person, And Value Of His Life With ALS The value of George’s life according to Christianity is measured through its sanctity. According to biblical teachings, human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, as a person, the value of George’s life is intrinsic, with a higher purpose of experiencing eternity in paradise. Therefore, even in his sickness, George should seek healing by having faith that God can heal him. This case can be compared to the healing of the leprous man by Jesus in the Bible. The leprous man approached Jesus and begged for healing, and his health was restored spontaneously (Mark 1: 40-45). In the Jewish culture, people suffering from leprosy lived in isolation, and they would be stoned to death at times. However, by restoring the man’s health, Jesus underscored the sanctity of human life. As such, George’s value of life is not subject to change depending on health or sickness.
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Even in his state of suffering, Christians would encourage him to hold on to his faith and believe that he would be healed at the proper timing of God. In Buddhism, the value of George’s life as a person is sacred, and thus he should choose the path of enlightenment to end suffering. Buddha said, “One thing I teach: suffering and the end of suffering. It is just ill and the ceasing of ill that I proclaim” (Nydahl, 2013, p. 84). Therefore, the value of George’s life with ALS would be tied to the mission of overcoming such suffering and preserving the inherent dignity of life. Values And Considerations For Each Religion In Christianity, the decision on whether George should opt for voluntary euthanasia will be based on different values concerning life as stipulated in the Bible. First, given the view that God is the giver of life, it means that a person cannot take what he cannot give. As such, a human being may not have the moral authority to determine when and how one should die. Psalms 127: 7 says, “The Lord will keep you from harm, He will watch over our life.” From this perspective, George may not be allowed to choose euthanasia because God is watching over his life. As such, Christians will argue that even in the vegetative state that George is bound to experience, his intrinsic value of life remains unchanged, and he is worthy just like any other normally functioning human being. As such, the value of George’s life would not be determined by achievements in life, intelligence, or mobility. However, the Bible commands people to respect and honor others. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” This requirement passes an implicit message that George’s wishes for voluntary euthanasia should be respected and honored. In Buddhism, the debate would revolve around George’s state of mind. Buddhists would argue that George is letting physical pain cause mental harm, which is wrong. The mind should rule over the body, and thus euthanasia would thus be unacceptable (Nydahl, 2013). Therefore, meditation would be recommended to achieve mental purity and enlightenment where physical suffering is inconsequential. Similarly, Buddhism promotes the principle of ahimsa, which states that no living creature should be harmed (Nydahl, 2013). Consequently, by choosing euthanasia, George would be violating this principle. Buddhism believes in karma, where people are incarnated into other life forms. Therefore, one would argue that by dying or transitioning while under pain, the next life would be started under the same circumstances. However, Buddha tolerated suicide by monks in different cases. Consequently, taken in the context of suicide, George would be allowed to undergo voluntary euthanasia because Buddha tolerated the same. In the Japanese Buddhist traditions, committing suicide amongst monks was permissible, and thus the same customs may be used to allow euthanasia. Morally Justified Options For Euthanasia Given the preceding views, George would be morally justified to undergo voluntary euthanasia under Christianity based on the requirement to honor others above oneself. George is in a stable condition of mind, and thus his wishes should be respected and granted (Cholbi & Varelius, 2015). Similarly, under Buddhism, he would be allowed to undergo assisted death because Buddha himself tolerated the practice. If the pioneer of the religion allowed a certain practice, it would be unjustifiable for his followers to argue otherwise or condemn those that want to follow their beliefs. My View/Conclusion I think that George should be allowed to undergo assisted euthanasia according to his wishes. From a scientific perspective, diseases do not simply disappear. Numerous research works are carried out to understand the pathology of a disease and the corresponding treatment procedures. In this case, there is no cure for ASL currently. Therefore, it would be illogical to stop George from undergoing euthanasia when there is no hope of recovering from his condition.
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I have seen the kind of pain and trauma that people are suffering from terminal diseases go through, and I would not wish George to experience the same. Additionally, I believe that people have the right to choose what they want with their lives, and thus they should not be denied the same. George is of sound state of mind, and I am sure he has explored all the options before settling for the one with the best outcomes. I believe that euthanasia protects human dignity, as one does not have to live in a vegetative state without the hope of recovering. As a nurse, I know that everyone deserves good health, and George may not enjoy the same after his condition degenerates into a vegetative state. References Beville, K. (2014). Dying to kill: A Christian perspective on euthanasia and assisted Suicide. Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House. Cholbi, M., & Varelius, J. (2015). New directions in the ethics of assisted suicide and euthanasia. New York, NY: Springer. Nydahl, L. (2013). Fearless death: Buddhist wisdom on the art of dying. San Francisco, CA: Diamond Way Press. Shelley, J. A., & Miller, A. B. (2009). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.