If we are to have free will, that free will should include not only how we live our lives, but how long we live them. (Taylor, 2003).Unlike what the quote stated, Kevorkian failed to recognize the ethical and moral obligation in euthanasia.
On 18th November 1926, Mahatma Gandhi said:
“I see there is an instinctive horror of killings things under any circumstances whatever. For instance, an alternative has been suggested in the shape of confining even rabid dogs in a certain place and allowing them to die a slow death. Now my idea of compassion makes this thing impossible for me. I cannot for a moment bear to see a dog, or for that matter any other living being, helplessly suffering the torture of a slow death. I do not kill a human being thus circumstanced because i have more helpful remedies. I should kill a dog similarly situated because in its case I am without a remedy. Should my child be attacked with rabies and there is no helpful remedy to relieve his agony, I should consider is my duty to take his life.”
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The term or word “Euthanasia” in Greek means to die in comfort, without pain (eu = good, ‘thantos’ =die). The term also refers to the work of a medical doctor to ‘lessen’ the suffering of a patient during death. Euthanasia, today is sometimes known as ‘mercy killing’, usually by lethal injection with the sole intention to hasten the death to end a patient`s suffering. We all know that we, as human beings, are not immortal and for that reason, we will die one day. Death awaits us all, in other words. For some people, deaths can come all of a sudden and under a quite comfortable situation. However, for some others, it comes after a prolonged pain and suffering. This situation creates fear of death.
Death of a person is one of the most important things that religions deal with. All faiths offer meaning and explanations for death and dying, other than that, all faiths also try to find a place for death and dying within human experience. For those left behind when someone dies religions provide rituals to mark death, and ceremonies to remember those who have died. Religions provide understanding and comfort for those who are facing death. Religions regard understanding death and dying as vital to finding meaning in human life. Dying is often seen as an occasion for getting powerful spiritual insights as well as for preparing for whatever afterlife may be to come.
There are many different religious views on euthanasia, although many moral theologians are critical of the procedure. Most religions disapprove of euthanasia. Some of them absolutely forbid it. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is one of the most active organisations in opposing euthanasia. he declaration on Euthanasia is the Roman Catholic Church’s official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued as by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980. Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a “crime against life”. The teaching of the Catholic Church on euthanasia rests on several core principles of Catholic ethics, including the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, concomitant human rights, due proportionality in casuistic remedies, the unavoidability of death, and the importance of charity.
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 a number of reasons.
God has forbidden it
virtually all religions with a supreme God have a command from God in their scriptures that says ‘you must not kill’
this is usually interpreted as meaning ‘you must not kill innocent human beings’
this rules out euthanasia (and suicide) as well as murder, as carrying out any of these would be against God’s orders, and would be an attack on the sovereignty of God.
Human life is sacred
human lives are special because God created them
therefore human life should be protected and preserved, whatever happens
therefore we shouldn’t interfere with God’s plans by shortening human lives
Human life is special
human beings are made in God’s image
therefore they have a special value and dignity
this value doesn’t depend on the quality of a particular life
taking a life violates that special value and dignity
even if it’s one’s own life
even if that life is full of pain and suffering
Some Eastern religions take a different approach. The key ideas in their attitudes to death are achieving freedom from mortal life, and not-harming living beings. Euthanasia clearly conflicts with the second of these, and it interferes with the first.
Freedom from mortal life
Hinduism and Buddhism see mortal life as part of a continuing cycle in which we are born, live, die, and are reborn over and over again
the ultimate aim of each being is to get free of this cycle, and so be completely liberated from the material world
during each cycle of life and death human beings make progress towards their ultimate liberation
how they live and how they die play a vital part in deciding what their next life will be, and so in shaping their journey to liberation
shortening life interferes with the working out of the laws that govern this process (the laws of karma), and so interferes with a human being’s journey to liberation
Warning: this ‘explanation’ is very over-simplified; there’s much more to these religious ideas than is written here.
Non-harm – the principle of ahimsa
Hinduism and Buddhism regard all life (not just human life) as involved in the process above
therefore they say that we should try to avoid harming living things
this rules out killing people, even if they want to die
The sanctity of life
Religious people often refer to the sanctity of life, or say that human life is sacred. They usually mean something like this:
God gives people life, so only God has the right to take it away.
You can look at that sentence in several ways. Here are three:
God gave us our lives
we owe our lives to God
God is the final authority over our lives
we must not interfere in the ending of our lives
God is intimately involved in our lives
God was intimately involved in our births
God will be intimately involved in our deaths
it would be wrong to try and shut God out of our dying
we should not interfere in the way God has chosen for our lives to end
God gave us our lives
we are only stewards of our bodies, and are responsible to God for them
we must use our bodies as God intended us to
we must allow our lives (our stewardship) to end at the time and in the way God wants.
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