By definition Euthanasia means ‘good death’ in Greek. It is a mercy killing or easier way to die than natural means because of the person’s illness.
Depending on the decisions that our Government make will determine wether those who or ill or suffering will have a mercy killing or not.
Forms of euthanasia
Active - A direct way of killing the patient has occurred to the patient to ensure the death. Eg an overdose of drugs.
Passive - A person is allowed to die and therefore not directly killed. Eg withholding their medication.
Voluntary - Euthanasia has been requested by the person who wants to die.
Non voluntary - The person who receives a mercy killing has been unable to make the decision for themselves. Eg a young baby or someone of low intelligence and someone makes the decision on their behalf.
Involuntary - To ease inevitable suffering a person that would want to live is killed by another person. Eg if they will definitely suffer a painful death they could be killed in advance. Eg a soldier kidnapped by the enemy.
Palliative care is the medical, emotional and spiritual care aimed at reducing suffering rather than curing the person who is suffering.
A living will refers to a document from someone who has a diagnoses that if they become so ill and cannot communicate their wishes that they can rely on this document as to how they should be treated. Eg they may want to outline to doctors in advance that if they became in a vegetative state that they would want to be allowed to die.
Euthanasia, like Abortion, is another issue that relates to ‘pro-life and pro-choice’ groups. A question in the exam may not specify euthanasia or abortion but leave it open with pro choice or pro life and you can relate both ethical issues.
An example of a pro-choice group that believes people should have the choice with this issue is Dignity in dying.
They believe that if people who are suffering with illnesses that cannot be cured that they should have help in dying.
They believe people should have the right to control their own lives and determine when they will die.
It is believed that in civilised societies we should allow people to die in dignity rather than excruciating deaths that illnesses may bring about. Another point is that it is no longer illegal to commit suicide.
Some people may not be able to take their own lives and it is argued they should receive help in doing so.
An example of a pro-life group that believes euthanasia (previously mentioned with Abortion) is called ‘Life’.
Believe that if euthanasia were to be accepted that it would devalue the lives of the disabled or sick.
All humans should be valued despite age, sex, race, religion or state of health.
Many Christians would take a pro-life position and believe that life is sacred because God has made people in His image and only He should decide when life ends.
It is believed that if euthanasia were legalised it could be abused and some people may end up having euthanasia when they didn’t want this option. (Eg elderly people with health problems may not want to be a burden on their families and if it were legalised may feel obligated to make use of it)
Doctors may also abuse the system in not reviving elderly people with health problems if euthanasia were to be legalised.
Other people believe that suffering is not a reason to end your life. Whilst all suffering is difficult it can develop virtues in people like ‘character and patience’.
Another argument is palliative care. Is is believed that palliative care can make euthanasia unnecessary.
The law in Britain
Euthanasia is illegal in Britain. It is considered murder even if the person has requested to have euthanasia. The maximum penalty for administering euthanasia is 14 years imprisonment. There have been several attempts to change the law that have been unsuccessful. It was proposed that terminally ill patients who requested to die could have an assisted death by a medical practitioner.
The law in Switzerland and the Netherlands
Switzerland and the Netherlands have legalised euthanasia. In the Netherlands doctors can administer drugs to terminally ill patients (over the age of 12) if they are convinced that the patient has voluntarily made the decision, that there suffering is unendurable, the patient understands the consequences, there is no other solution, a second doctor has been consulted and they have helped the patient to die with good medical care.
The law in Belgium
In 2014 after 12 years of legalising euthanasia in Belgium they have have voted to pass euthanasia without having any age limits. This means children in extreme situations may also have euthanasia.
Palliative care (detailed)
Friends and family of the terminally ill patients can also be supported by organisations that provide palliative care. Palliative care has been designed to make the end of people’s lives as pleasant as possible. Family and friends get to spend time with each other and say goodbye’s in a caring environment. Some people believe that competent palliative care could remove the need for euthanasia. Christians believe that such care meets the needs of physical problems as well pointing people to God for strength through their suffering. Christians believe that death is not the end and that the end of life is a time to prepare for eternal life.
A Hospice is a place where the patient, family and friends may receive medical, emotional and spiritual care. Patients can garden, write, talk, have aromatherapy and participate in activities that they are able to do. Comfortable and warm surroundings are provided for those who are nearing the end of their life. Pain can be controlled by drugs and medical care and the Hospice maintains that no matter how severe this is that they can control it. It also provides support for families and patients to face up to death and therefore emotional support is received. Patients who have belief in God can have religious leaders read the Bible with them or receive prayer. A hospice is somewhere where people can go to die in dignity. They are supported by Churches, schools, fundraising events and charity collections.
Christian response to Euthanasia
Christians believe that suffering and illness is a time in your life to look beyond everything and find a deep meaning to your life. Even the process of dying can be a time of learning more about God and how he can be your strength through terrible suffering. As Christians believe they will enter eternity in heaven with God after their life all suffering should be seen as a temporary time of pain before inexpressible joy. Christians have a strong belief in the sanctity of life as Genesis outlines that humans are made in God’s image. “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) Those who are vulnerable (elderly, ill or disabled) should be protected and at the end of their lives palliative care is a much better option than a consideration of euthanasia. Christians also believe that in a world marred with sin that suffering should be expected. Christians however believe that through their suffering they can rely on God’s strength and develop character and patience. To take the life of another person is murder.
Many christian churches have strong opinions against euthanasia. The Roman Catholic Church condemn euthanasia as unacceptable. They take a pro-life position in both abortion and euthanasia.
The Presbyterian Church emphasises that palliative care should be provided for those who are ill or dying rather than the choice of euthanasia.
The Church of Ireland also minimises the choice of euthanasia by encouraging Christians to “use a far greater resource - palliative care, a care which embraces body, mind and soul.”