Christian Perspectives on Assisted Dying: An Issue for Religious Ethics

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Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Global Views on Choosing to End Life, Michael J. Cholbi, Praeger, 2017, pp.121-144

Svenson, Arthur G., “Physician-Assisted Dying and the Law in the United States: A Perspective on Three Prospective Futures”,

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Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Global Views on Choosing to End Life, Michael J. Cholbi, Praeger, 2017, pp.3-28

What is euthanasia? Euthanasia is when a doctor can legally end the life of a patient in a painless matter if allowed by the patient and their family. Many people often confuse euthanasia with assisted suicide but there is a slight difference. Assisted suicide is when the patient requests the aid of the doctor to help commit suicide. There are various reasons patients request euthanasia and as to whether it should be legalized. I believe that it should be legalized because no one should have to endure pain if they are capable of making a rational decision regarding their death.

One reason the patient may prefer euthanasia is because they see it as a way to end their suffering. Let us say that a patient has stage four esophageal cancer, which means that the cancer has metastasized and the patient does not have a good prognosis. Keep in mind that the patient is going through chemotherapy, which causes loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, severe pain, and muscle atrophy. Would you rather see that patient suffer for the few weeks that they have left or would you grant the wish of the patient if they asked for euthanasia? Courtney Campbell, Professor in Religion and Culture at Oregon State University agrees with Daniel Callahan Ph.D., “Ought the general duty of the physician to relieve suffering encompasses the right to kill a patient if, in the judgement of the patient, that is desired and seems necessary?” (210) If the patient is in severe pain, is it the physician’s duty or obligation to treat them with a medication that might end their life? Even if it interferes with the Hippocratic Oath, which doctors recite stating “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” (Nordqvist 3) Doctors are taught to preserve human life and help heal others. But the patient has the ultimate say and what the patient wants should be done.

Many people live with illnesses that come with excruciating pain and it makes life a bit more challenging depending on the illness. For example, my grandfather had cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and somedays his pain was tolerable and other days he would have intense chest pain and trouble breathing. He did not know about euthanasia because my family refused to even bring up that topic. At times, the pain killers that the doctors prescribed did little to no improvement and towards the end of his life his pain started to get worse and we could all see how much pain he was going through. But he was always saying how he was ready and didn’t want to suffer anymore. Most people do not like for others or their family members to see them weak or in pain, which is why they want a swift, peaceful, and painless death instead of living through the pain.

Another reason I support the legalization of euthanasia is because a person with a terminal illness in which treatment has not been working has the right to refuse treatment or if they feel the condition will worsen and they no longer have the same mental and physical capabilities. According to author Sandra Alters, Jack Kevorkian, also known as “Dr. Death”, was a major advocate and was best known for his invention of the Mercitron. The Mercitron was a device that allowed the patient access to a lethal dose of painkillers. His first patient to use this device suffered from Alzheimer’s and did not want her mental status to worsen. She did not want to be a victim of the disease and chose euthanasia in June 1990. (10)

I already had some knowledge of who Jack Kevorkian was and what he was known for. He not only fought for the right to legalize euthanasia, but he also fought for the right of the patient and believed that what they wanted should be done regardless. The patient also has legal authority to refuse treatment and being as euthanasia is not legal, the closest thing that can protect their rights from family and doctors is a DNR which basically gives them the final say. The DNR can help the person believe that they are still in control of their life and makes them feel a little less powerless. I believe that the patient has the right to choose what happens to them if they are mentally capable of making the decision. Because, after all the patient is the one that is going through the pain not the doctor. And the patient has the final say even if the family has a different opinion.

Lastly, I believe euthanasia allows the patient to die with dignity. While researching this topic, I discovered that only Oregon, Montana, and Washington have allowed assisted suicide and implemented it. Each state has different requirement the allow the patient to be eligible and each patient chart has to be evaluated by the doctor to determine whether or not the patient is doing it for medical reasons. Oregon was the first state to pass and enforce the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA) in 1994, this act allowed the patient a “humane and dignified death” (8) But the requirements are fairly simple, the patient has to be at least eighteen, mentally competent and have a terminal illness that is incurable. Brittany Maynard began her own campaign focused around the DWDA after undergoing a partial craniotomy which is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon makes a small incision in the skull to gain access to the brain and removes a tumor or whatever may be causing the problem. She only had months to live and she chose to die on November 1st, 2014. She was a major advocate for the Death With Dignity Act. (“Death with Dignity Is a Human Right (Or Should Be)”, sec. 2)

Sometimes a patient wants euthanasia because they do not want their family members to remember them in a terminal state instead, they want to be remembered for how they were before the illness. They want to be remembered for all the good things they have accomplished in life instead of all the pain and treatments. They want to die with dignity instead of others showing pity towards them. I know if I was terminal and in pain I would certainly want my family and friends to remember me for the person I was before and I would hope that they simply cherish all the wonderful moments.

The only thing I see that would conflict my thoughts on euthanasia would be the fact the it is against my Christianity. As a child, I was taught that suicide was a form of murder it was a sin because it violates the 6th commandment which states that we should not murder. It also went hand in hand with the fact that it stated in Psalms that if we cast our burdens on the Lord He will sustain and lift us up. Lloyd Steffen declared, “Christians in general hold that human life should not be destroyed…thus euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are in general prohibited.” (138)

Many religious groups are against euthanasia and assisted suicide. The main fact is because only God knows when it is our time to die and he has our entire life planned out for us. Only he knows how much we can handle and He will not give a person more than what they cannot handle. Who knows, a terminal illness might be a bump in life but he has planned for us to survive this illness and be a light for others that have the same illness. But, when we use euthanasia or follow through with assisted suicide we commit a sin and take matters into our own hands when we could have lived longer than what we thought. In a Christian perspective, life is a gift from God and only He has the authority to take a life.

Many people have their own opinion regarding this topic and I hope this showed you a different side to euthanasia and assisted suicide and the benefits it can have. I believe euthanasia should be legalized because it would be beneficial to those with terminal illnesses that cannot do anything but suffer in pain. No one should have to endure pain of the resources are available and they are capable of making life altering decisions.

Works Cited

“”Right to Die: Do terminally ill patients have a right to die with the assistance of a physician?”” Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 10 Nov. 2016

Alters, Sandra M. “”Suicide, Euthanasia, and Physician-Assisted Suicide.”” Death and Dying: End-of-Life Controversies, 2012 ed., Gale, 2013

Campbell, Courtney S., “Limiting the Right to Die: Moral Logic, Professional Integrity, Social Ethos”

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Global Views on Choosing to End Life, Michael J. Cholbi, Praeger, 2017, pp.191-229

Faris, Daniel, “Death with Dignity Is a Human Right (Or Should Be).” Moderate Voice, 2015

Nordqvist, Christian. “”What are euthanasia and assisted suicide?””, Medical News Today, MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Dec. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.

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