Saturday, August 02, 2008

Question of the Day

Is euthanasia -- doctor assisted suicide -- compatible with Christian teaching?


Anonymous said...

Ivan Walters:


Kansas Bob said...

It is what sadly passes for compassion these days.. not that it is not attractive for so many who are in constant pain. I think that Hospice is the humane alternative to Kevorkianism.

Andrew C. Thompson said...

No, nyet, non, nope, nada.

Much like abortion, it is another example of human society insisting on playing God when it comes to the parameters of human life. What is it that makes us think we are so much wiser than God on when a person's life needs to end?

That said, I actually think there is a parallel between euthanasia and the medical culture that wants to keep a person hooked up to life support machinery long after that person should have died. There is nothing wrong with allowing a person to die who would have died in the absence of breathing machines and feeding tubes. I don't know how medical ethics gets played out in the classroom, but from the practical side of ministry it seems terribly confused. Like Kansas Bob, I think hospice is the most humane form of medical treatment I see in terminally ill people.

DannyG said...

As someone who has been in a medical field for 30+ years, I agree. It is not now, nor has it ever been appropriate. I'm glad that I don't practice in Oregon, where it is allowed. Hospice, or the equivalent, is the most appropriate solution. Interestingly, I've read some opinions critical of hospice on several "christian" web sites/blogs. Their arguement is that #1. it is a form of giving up. #2. that the pain medications used in typical hospice practice amount to defacto euthanasia. I find their arguments, in both cases, shallow and lacking in any real recognition of the medical facts.

Keith Taylor said...


the reverend mommy said...


I *do* believe there is significant difference between curative care and palliative care -- and that we sometimes wait WAY too long to switch into palliative care.

Pain control is a must. Assisted suicide is a short cut to a solution of psychological/spiritual pain. With sufficient spiritual therapy and drug therapy there should be no need for assisted suicide. Period.

John of the Dead said...

I'm gonna have to buck the trend on this one. I think it is, under very certain, limited circumstances. Serveral folks have mentioned hospice care, which *is* great. However, there are patients in such agony that every day, even in the best of hospice situations, is a day of unbridled torture. Is forcing someone to spend another day in unrelenting pain, with no hope of recovery, showing mercy and love? Or another day? Or another? Or another? How long must someone suffer, with no hope of recovery (or even relief) before we allow them to pass?

So, yes, I think doctor-assisted suicide is compatible with Christian teachings, under situations and circumstances which are very, very rare. (It should go without saying that I also think that every other option should be exhasuted first, because obviously there's no going back.)

rocksalive777 said...

It depends on what you mean: Is "pulling the plug" to be considered euthanasia? Not to open up a can of worms, but I remember the (rather disgusting) media circus around Terry Schiavo and many of my Catholic friends claiming that she was murdered.

When it comes to the actions of doctors such as Kevorkian, I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the issue - though, oddly enough, I do have semi-regular discussions on this topic with a few friends.
Yeah, we're kind of morbid sometimes.

Rev. J said...

I agree with Andrew, "it is another example of human society insisting on playing God." Humans love control and euthanasia (or even regular suicide) is the human way of controlling the final moments of a one's life.

Nothing is worse than sitting next to someone in the last days when they are in horrible pain. But to end a life is to limit God's love for that person. There is no pain God cannot embrace and to cut life short cuts out opportunities for God to share that love with that person (in ways we can see and not see). We limit our reliance on God when we take these moment into our hands and imagine we can know a better way for it to be handled.

The Ironic Catholic said...


truevyne said...

I've actually been approached about the subject. I utterly and emphatically rejected the idea, because to me, life and death are entirely God's decision.

Dan Trabue said...

I am of the group that says it depends on what you mean by euthanasia. I have no great fear of dying (or so I say now). I have no great desire to have "heroic" measures (ie, EXPENSIVE) taken to try to prolong my life at great expense for a few days, weeks or months.

So, "pulling the plug" to me is not euthanasia. Refusing medical treatment or even food is not euthanasia but, as Andrew and others have said (although coming from the opposite POV), trying to (relatively) artificially prolong life "is another example of human society insisting on playing God."

On the other hand, I do think if I were a doctor, I could not conceive of actually helping someone end their life early (any more than I could conceive of assisting in many types of abortions), BUT ultimately, I want those sorts of decisions left in the hands of the people making decisions about their own or their own loved one's fate.

It depends.

John said...

I'm with John of the Dead and Dan Trabue on this one. Or at least, I'm not with the one word answers "no". In general, euthanasia is wrong. And in terms of public policy, permitting it legally can be catastrophic. But I can think of some hypothetical scenarios where I would definitely not want to continue living, and would be disinclined to force others to do likewise. I don't think that this is a completely black-and-white area of ethics.

the reverend mommy said...

Sufficient medication to end pain will look like assisted suicide, btw.

Pain is unacceptable. However I had a friend who (successfully) wanted to have assistance ending his life. No doctor would touch it. I refused, as well. He was HIV positive -- no, not full blown AIDS, just HIV positive. Where are the lines drawn?

Terry Shiveo (however you spell that) had reflexive actions -- her case was indeed so very borderline that I can understand the stance on both sides. The residual sadness I have is that there was no consensus between the husband and the parents. If either would have bent, we wouldn't be talking about that case at all. Either path could be seen as "right."

I personally was/am conflicted every time I enter into a Level IV NICU. I have actually had a nurse friend say, "Ooo, I would never work with those.... RATS." I have had another friend who would try to save every single one -- at any cost. Where do you draw the line?

We are medically able to do things that perhaps we should not do -- we are able to save neonates that perhaps God intended us to NOT save.

Do we "save" people who should better be allowed to pass away -- yes. Do we allow people to pass before we should -- yes.

Are we going to solve this problem anytime soon? No.