Death in the Hands of Whom Should an individual be allowed to choose assisted suicide with the help of a physician, or be forced to follow their theological beliefs of the dominant religion they practice when life seems pointless? The choice of whether to live or not live is directly influenced by the decision to indulge in a process characterized as "physician assisted suicide" or simply called Euthanasia. Many people believe it is solely left upon God to determine when death should occur, but some people believe that a doctor has the right to take their life and help the patient destroy it. In this paper I will be discussing what euthanasia is, how it affects the patients life, and the implication it has on the religious community as an unmoral act.
One may wonder why in the end to choose euthanasia as a means to deliberately end their life. Some individuals live in excessive chronic pain, some due to poverty or lack of health-care coverage and cannot afford pain-killing medication. Others are denied adequate painkillers because of their physician's lack of knowledge and or inadequate training. They have a terminal illness where disease has adversely affected their quality of life to the point where they no longer wish to continue living. Some have lost their independence and must be cared for continually or simply they realize that they will be dying in the near future and simply want to have total control over the process. But whatever the case may be, the people who decide to commit suicide are unable to accomplish the act alone.
They need assistance from their physician to assist the suicide and help them die under conditions in which they wish. Euthanasia includes the Passive and Active action of death. Passive Euthanasia can be defined as the hastening death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course. This can happen either by removing life support equipment, stopping medical procedures, stopping food and water and allowing the person to dehydrate or starve to death. The most common form of passive euthanasia is to give patients large doses of morphine to control pain. Such doses of these painkillers have a dual effect of relieving pain and hastening death and are mostly performed on terminally ill people in a persistent vegetative state.
Another type of euthanasia is Active Euthanasia, which causes the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. A physician supplies information and or the means of committing suicide by either prescription for lethal dose of sleeping pills, or a supply of carbon monoxide gas to a person, so that they can easily terminate their own life. PAS is currently legal, under severe restrictions, but only in the American state of Oregon and in the Netherlands, in other jurisdictions, they are forced to continue living against their wish, until their body eventually collapses, or until a family member or friend commits a criminal act by helping them commit suicide. According to the International Task Force, an international leader in the ever-increasing debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. Since 1998 to 2004, a total of 208 people have died from assisted suicide, 37 cases just along in the year 2004. Euthanasia is not only wrong, but it goes beyond respecting the morality of an individual's life.
When human beings are aware and conscience of a moral decision in their life either the intention, the act itself, or circumstances that individual is responsible regardless. In every day life, human beings have the underlying ability to choose good and avoid evil because as Christians, we have a moral duty to God, the creator to abide by Christianity. The innocent killing of human beings prescribed by physician known as Euthanasia, to end a persons life in not only unmoral but goes against God's Plan for us. Whether we acknowledge the fact that God is the source of all things uniting the world and human nature, he absolutely is.
Natural Law is the moral knowledge accessible to anyone of good will who reflects upon human experience the gift of the creator who places that law within us. Natural law is undistinguishable from life because the two are forever intertwined together and it is the reality of moral values being good, bad, right, or wrong. The reality of Euthanasia is beyond being bad or wrong, and for that reason it affects the basis of our human dignity. God created us in the divine image of himself in our ability to have freedom, rationality, and capacity for personal relationships. In choosing to do evil and avoid good we are indirectly going against God, our Natural Law.
Our unawareness of personal responsibility, the general sense of what are proper values, the ability to exercise correct moral reasoning, and the casuistry of the situation determine how we live our life. In the bible, "You shall not murder" is a commandment that specifically goes against the belief that life is a gift. We live in the age of human rights, although if there is no God and no transcendent source of values it is very difficult to see upon what basis an appeal to rights can be made. "Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth". God was not obliged to create us, he did so as an expression of his nature, his grace.
Back in Genesis 2: 7, "It is God who forms man from the dust of the earth and breathes into man the breath of life". Adam the gift of life, and human beings are made in God's image, whereupon murder is considered a particularly horrific irreversible crime. In Genesis 9: 6, God instituted capital punishment, which stated, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God, God has made man". The belief life is on loan is focused for us from the book of Job 1: 21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall depart. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord". Life is on a loan reminds people who it is they are dealing with.
God is sovereign and such life is not only a gift, which he chooses to give or withdraw as he wills, but also a gift that is on loan. It is not our absolute possession to do with as we see fit, but a gift to be treasured as God has decreed. Furthermore, life is to be seen as a great blessing and death is to be seen as an intrusion into God's good world brought about by sin. Certainly, this is more than a physical-biological life, it is the spiritual life of a restored relationship with the one who has made us and for whom we were made. Ultimately, what God has in view for his people are the blessings of a restored physical body, a renewed spiritual orientation, so when we seek to save life and care for the sick and in firmed, we are in a way reflecting God's own character and in a partial way showing what it means to redeem.
Conversely when we treat life lightly, even for what we might think are the best of motives, we actually reflect the character of God's enemy-the devil whom Jesus calls a murderer from the beginning. According to the Catholic Doctrines, referred to as magisterial sources written by Those of holy statue, these binding documents explain to all Christians, how they should live and abide by Gods will. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council solemnly reaffirmed the lofty dignity of the human person, and in a special way his or her right to life. The Council therefore condemned crimes against life "such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide", (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium Et Spes, no. 27). Euthanasia is not only wrong but, deems killing as the most absolute evil one can commit and in modern society those fundamental values of human life are called into question which give rise to moral problems.
Christians, who place all their faith and hope in Christ, are given a new meaning to existence and especially to his life, death and resurrection. St. Paul says, 'If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord' (Rom. 14: 8; Phil. 1: 20). According to the church, Euthanasia is recognized as an expression of the spiritual and moral weakening of the dying person's dignity. In their documents, the Magisterium did not just define euthanasia as morally unacceptable, "as the deliberate killing of an innocent human person", (Evangelium vitae, n.
65.) or as a "criminal offense", (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 27). The condemnation of euthanasia expressed by the Evangelium Vitae reflects the impact of universal ethical reasoning based on natural law and the elementary premise of faith in God the Creator and protector of every human person. The approach to the gravely ill and the dying must therefore be inspired by the respect for the life and the dignity of the person. From the beginning, the living Tradition of the Church as shown by the Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writing, "You shall not kill", more so in the case of weak and defenseless human beings, who find their ultimate defense against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of God's commandment. Through the church, the Magisterium has spoken out with increasing frequency in defense of the sacredness and inviolability of human life.
The Papal Magisterium, particularly insistent in this regard confirms that, "the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral... As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others". This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships, which can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. According to the Declaration of Euthanasia (pg 6. ), "Euthanasia in the strict sense is understood to be an action or omission, which of it and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering".
Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone suffering, indeed euthanasia must be called a disturbing perversion of false mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another's pain, it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Once the choice of euthanasia takes the form of a murder conveyed on people who have in no way requested or consented to it, euthanasia becomes much more serious. God alone has the power over life and death, "It is I who bring both death and life", (Dt 32: 39). But God only exercises this power in accordance with a plan of wisdom and love. When man usurps this power, becoming enslaved by a foolish and selfish way of thinking, he inevitably uses it for injustice and death.
Thus the life of the person who is weak is put into the hands of the one who is strong. In society the sense of justice is lost, and mutual trust. Tthe basis of every authentic interpersonal relationship, is undermined at its root. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute, and yet man rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the absolute ruin and total disappearance of his own person.
Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter". The Catholic understanding of the faith is likely to be distorted by the particular biases of our own culture. The only way to correct those distortions is by listening carefully to Christians who lived in situations very different from our own. It is what Vatican II calls the sensus fidelium, which is respecting the lived and expressed faith of every Christian. The sensus fideism literally means "The Sense of the Faithful". Just as the Spirit infallibly guides the magisterium so that it doesn't propose teachings that would lead the whole Church into error, the faithful, as a whole, have an instinct or sense about when a teaching is or is not in harmony with the true faith.
Believing that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church through the "Sense of the Faithful", we hope to listen too, rather than speak for, the people of God as prompted by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only acts in every living Christian who is in the state of grace, but has acted in all who have ever lived. Unfortunately, when you have people that are guided by the Holy Spirit, that intentional go against the sense of the faithful by participating in acts of euthanasia, they become perplexed in the meaning of true faith. Given that the magisterium is the official teaching authority of the church, and the laws within those doctrines should be followed in accord with Gods dogmas of the church. Euthanasia is wrong regardless the reasoning behind it, for no person has the right to deny anyone life. The people who choose euthanasia whether religious or not, are neglecting to fulfill their purpose in life as a Christian.
Jesus had taught over and over that death was never the winner and that death was not final. In order to understand how sensus fidelium should be applied to euthanasia, a person must first recognize that traveling through suffering will only bring them closer to understanding how Jesus suffered. However, to take it upon yourself or have another individual decide when your point of death shall occur is not seeking to be faithful in Christ. For the glory of God is the life of the church and the salvation of your soul and shall be jeopardized. Often heard is the phrase, "no pain, no gain", signifying we all want to move from pain toward pleasure so what good, then, is pain? Pain lets you know that something is wrong and when you attend to your pain, you can decide to respond to it so that it will go away.
However pain can multiply, transitioning into suffering. The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy puts it this way: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him" (30: 19-20). When you reach out to others despite your own pain, you are like Christ.
For in the Gospel of John it states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (1: 1-5). Not only is Jesus attracted to the goodness in our words and deeds, but Jesus also comes our way even in our your darkest moments. Therefore to be inclined in reasoning of hopefulness shall only diminish the ability to recognize that you have power over your life.
You, too, will reflect that light in the darkness, the same darkness Jesus swallowed up by dying, and shattered by rising again. Finally, Listen to the wisdom of Proverbs 13: 20: "Walk with wise men and women and you will become wise, but the companion of fools will fare badly". Work to be in right relationship with God through prayer, worship, study and applying your Catholic Christian faith to everyday trials and tribulations. Remember", Life is a gift of God and on the other hand is unavoidable; it is necessary, therefore, that we, without in any way hastening the hour of death, should be able to accept it with full responsibility and dignity", (Declaration of Euthanasia).
Works Cities Bohr, David. Catholic Moral Tradition. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, (1999): 149- 55., 309-18. "Catechism of the Catholic Church on Assisted-Suicide". 2276 - 79., 2280-83 Edmund D. Pellegrino, Evangelium Vitae, "Euthanasia, and Physician Assisted Suicide". D.C. : Georgetown University Press, (1997): 240". Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide".
International Task Force. (c) 1996-2004 "Euthanasia". The Verbal Battle over Euthanasia". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. (c) 1997 to 2001 web 'Connell, Timothy. Principles For A Catholic Morality.
New York: Harper Collins, (1990): 134-36". On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life". A papal encyclical dealing with life and death, also euthanasia. Rachel's, James. The End of Life: The Morality of Euthanasia.
New York: Oxford University Press, (1986) Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Declaration on Euthanasia. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1990. The Bible (King James Version). Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.