Religious Views on Euthanasia
There are many views among Buddhists on the issue of euthanasia, but many are critical of the procedure.
An important value of Buddhism teaching is compassion. Compassion is used by some Buddhists as a justification for euthanasia because the person suffering is relieved of pain. However, it is still immoral “to embark on any course of action whose aim is to destroy human life, irrespective of the quality of the individual’s motive.”
In Theravada Buddhism a lay person daily recites the simple formula: “I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings.” For Buddhist monastics (bhikkhu) however the rules are more explicitly spelled out. For example, in the monastic code (Patimokkha), it states:
- “Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): ‘My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,’ or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion.”
The Declaration on Euthanasia is the Church’s official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980.
Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a “crime against life” and a “crime against God“. 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 inevitability of death, and the importance of charity. It has been argued that these are relatively recent positions, but whatever the position of individual Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church’s viewpoint is unequivocal.
See also: Protestantism
Protestant denominations vary widely on their approach to euthanasia and physician assisted death. Since the 1970s, Evangelical churches have worked with Roman Catholics on a sanctity of life approach, though some Evangelicals may be adopting a more exceptionless opposition. While liberal Protestant denominations have largely eschewed euthanasia, many individual advocates (such as Joseph Fletcher) and euthanasia society activists have been Protestant clergy and laity. As physician assisted dying has obtained greater legal support, some liberal Protestant denominations have offered religious arguments and support for limited forms of euthanasia. However, they are more lenient than the Roman Catholic Church
Christians in support of euthanasia
Groups claiming to speak for Christians rather than the official viewpoints of the Christian clergy have sprung up in a number of countries.
See also: Prayopavesa
There are two Hindu points of view on euthanasia. By helping to end a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfilling their moral obligations.Euthanasia may also be acceptable if it is used for selfless motives. On the other hand, by helping to end a life, even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth. This is a bad thing to do, and those involved in the euthanasia will take on the remaining karma of the patient Death is a natural process, and will come in time.
It is clearly stated in the Vedas that man has only two trustworthy friends in life, the first is called Vidya (knowledge), and the 2nd is called Mrityu (Death). The former is something that is beneficial and a requirement in life, and the latter is something that is inevitable sometimes even unexpected. It is not the euthanasia that is the act of sin, but worldly attachment which causes euthanasia to be looked upon as an act of sin. Even a Sannyasin or Sannyasini if they decide to, are permitted to end his or her life with the hope of reaching moksha i.e. emancipation of the soul.
Muslims are against euthanasia. They believe that all humans life is sacred because it is given by God, and that God chooses how long each person lives. Human beings should not interfere in this. It is forbidden for a Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance.
Main article: Sallekhana
Jainism is based on the principle of non-violence (ahinsa) and is best known for it. Jainism recommends voluntary death or sallekhana for both ascetics and srāvaka (householders) at the end of their life. Sallekhana (also known as Santhara, Samadhi-marana) is made up of two words sal (meaning ‘properly’) and lekhana, which means to thin out. Properly thinning out of the passions and the body is sallekhana. A person is allowed to fast unto death or take the vow of sallekhana only when certain requirements are fulfilled. It is not considered suicide as the person observing it, must be in a state of full consciousness. When observing sallekhana, one must not have the desire to live or desire to die. Practitioner shouldn’t recollect the pleasures enjoyed or, long for the enjoyment of pleasures in the future. The process is still controversial in parts of India. Estimates for death by this means range from 100 to 240 a year. Preventing santhara invites social ostracism.
Like the trend among Protestants, Jewish medical ethics have become divided, partly on denominational lines, over euthanasia and end of life treatment since the 1970s. Generally, Jewish thinkers oppose voluntary euthanasia, often vigorously, though there is some backing for voluntary passive euthanasia in limited circumstances. Likewise, within the Conservative Judaism movement, there has been increasing support for passive euthanasia (PAD) In Reform Judaism responsa, the preponderance of anti-euthanasia sentiment has shifted in recent years to increasing support for certain passive euthanasia options. Secular Judaism is a separate category with increasing support for euthanasia. A popular sympathiser for euthanasia is Rabbi Miriam Jerris.
A study performed in 2010 investigated elderly Jewish women who identified themselves as either Hasidic Orthodox, non-Hasidic Orthodox, or secularized Orthodox in their faith. The study found that all of the Hasidic Orthodox responders disapproved of voluntary euthanasia whereas a majority of the secularized Orthodox responders approved of it.
In Japan, where the dominant religion is Shinto, 69% of the religious organisations agree with the act of voluntary passive euthanasia. The corresponding figure was 75% when the family asked for it. In Shinto, the prolongation of life using artificial means is a disgraceful act against life. Views on active euthanasia are mixed, with 25% Shinto and Buddhist organisations in Japan supporting voluntary active euthanasia.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) recommends observing the ethics and culture of the resident country when determining euthanasia. In 1988 the UUA gathered to share a commitment to The Right to Die with Dignity document which included a resolution supporting self-determination in dying.
Influence of religious views
Religious views on euthanasia are both varied and complicated. While one’s view on the matter doesn’t necessarily connect directly to their religion, it often impacts a person’s opinion. While the influence of religion on one’s views toward palliative care do make a difference, they often play a smaller role than one may think. An analysis of the connection between the religion of US adults and their view on euthanasia was done in order to see how they combine. The findings concluded that the religious affiliation one associates with does not necessarily connect with their stance on euthanasia. Research shows that while many belong to a specific religion, they may not always see every aspect as relevant to them.
Some metadata analysis has supported the hypothesis that nurses’ attitudes towards euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are influenced by religion and world view. Attributing more importance to religion also seems to make agreement with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide less likely. A 1995 study of public opinion found that the tendency to see a distinction between active euthanasia and suicide was clearly affected by religious affiliation and education. In Australia, more doctors without formal religious affiliation were sympathetic to active voluntary euthanasia, and acknowledged that they had practiced it, than were doctors who gave any religious affiliation. Of those identifying with a religion, those who reported a Protestant affiliation were intermediate in their attitudes and practices between the agnostic/atheist and the Catholic groups. Catholics recorded attitudes most opposed, but even so, 18 percent of Catholic medical respondents who had been so requested, recorded that they had taken active steps to bring about the death of patients.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia