Your wife of 50 years is suddenly diagnosed with a terminal disease. She lies in a bed, motionless and unaware of her surroundings. The medication to ease her pain has been wearing off. She just lies there in pain and unable to communicate with the outside world. The doctors give her a month to live at the most.
What would you do? Would you let her sit in a hospital bed in agonizing pain for the last few months of her life, or do you help her to prematurely meet her God? That is the topic of discussion in this paper: Euthanasia.
Let’s start by defining the term. Euthanasia is also referred to as “mercy killing.” That is the killing of someone for their own good due to the pain and suffering they are enduring. Euthanasia also includes situations where the individual who is suffering makes the decision to die, a type of suicide actually.
In today’s world there are two types of euthanasia that are most common. The first are people who, perhaps because of serious illness or perhaps for reasons unrelated to their illness, are extremely depressed and say that they want to die (Johanson 1). Research has shown that the vast majority of these people are just asking for sympathy and don’t really want to die but rather hear the calls of there loved ones begging them not to go on with the procedure. They want the attempt to fail. The second type of euthanasia involve people who are suffering from an illness that makes them unable to communicate (Johanson 2).
These type of people are those who are in comas, paralyzed, or simply so sick that they cannot make meaningful sounds or other communication (Johanson 2). This is a much more accepted type of euthanasia. Especially in the Netherlands where Euthanasia is more common then the United States. There are two sides to attack this issue from. One being from the view of the Catholic Church and the other from a legal standpoint. Lets start with the legal standpoint.
Who has the right to tell us when or when cannot die? Many feel that we have the right to do whatever we want to our bodies because they are our personal property. It is our inalienable right to do whatever we like to ourselves. They have a point since it all goes back to how we formed our nation. We formed it on individual rights that we modeled after the ideas of Rousseau before the French Revolution. Pro-euthanasia people also believe that anyone should have the right to turn away medical treatment if he believes that the side-effects, whether pain or the burden of being tied to some machine or whatever, are worse then the disease (Johanson 1).
Even if this means he will live a shorter life. Pro-euthanasia activists also believe that if someone is in there right mind and honestly wants to end his life to the pain he is suffering he should have the right to do so. Some people stretch that belief even farther in saying that we all have the inalienable right to kill ourselves at anytime for any reason at all. That is when things can get out of control.
The Ohio Law Review went as far as publishing a “Model Aid-in-Dying Act” that they believe all states should accept. It states that a child over the age of six could request “aid-in-dying” and if his parents refused to agree with him, an “Aid-in-Dying Board” could overrule them and grant him his wish (Johanson 1).
Sometimes the idea of euthanasia can be twisted into extremely evil ways. Some euthanasia activists believe that the patient should be put to death because they have become a burden on society. They decide that it would be more beneficial to spend the money on something more useful. This is what it has come to in the Netherlands where according to Rita Marker of the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, euthanasia now accounts for 15% of the deaths in the Netherlands (Johanson 3).
It gets pretty scary in the Netherlands with case stories like the following. A Dutch doctor diagnosed a woman with cancer. He checked her to the hospital for treatment and the results were astonishing. The treatments were already showing improvement. Well two days later the doctor goes to pay the recovering patient a visit and found another patient in her bed. When he asked about her, a nurse said that they needed the room so they decided that she was one of the weakest and gave her “the injection” (Valente 328).
That is the form they do it in the Netherlands, with a deadly injection, without consent sometimes. Some people are afraid to even check into the hospitals for fear of their lives. Pro- euthanasia people say that euthanasia should be limited to only the terminally ill. And it should be a very hard decision that we may have to make but may be the best decision at times. A completely different way to view this is through the eyes of the Catholic Church.
The Church is very much against the idea of euthanasia. Although the church recognizes the fact that there is now law of any state or religion that says we must stay alive at any cost (Pavone 1), they still say we do not have the right to die at our own will. Many believe that we own our bodies to the fullest extent. This is not true when relating it to Church. According to our belief, we have been given our bodies and life as a sacred gift from God and that we have absolutely no right tampering with when we are to die (Pavone 1). We are created in God’s image and our lives have intrinsic and immeasurable value (Welsh 2). We are called to believe that only God can give us the gift of life and only He can take it away. The church goes on to say that death is inevitable and when it is clear that God is calling us we can accept his summons with faith but in no way speed up the process (Welsh 2).
The Catholic Church has devised a means for approaching situations dealing with the terminally ill. They say there are two ways we treat them: “ordinary” or “extraordinary”. Ordinary means must always be used to help the patient. This is any treatment that benefits the patient without severe side-effects or burdens. Extraordinary means are optional. Theses are treatments that put excessive burdens on the patient and have no real benefits (Pavone 2).
The church also believes in the “sanctity of life ethic”. This is the opposite belief of secular life stating that every life has a quality attached to it. The secular belief means that a life may be lessened in value due to the circumstances surrounding it. If I were deathly ill and unable to add to the community in any way, my life would be worth much less then that of a healthy 30 year old man working in the community. Well the “sanctity of life” states that every life has a God given value that is not reduced by circumstances (Welsh 2). And for those people who are suffering, we believe that God knows what he is doing, even if we do not understand.
The Church is generally against the utilitarian ideas that the secular world has come to adopt today. We are called to see the sovereign hand of God and have faith in the fact that God knows what he is doing. After researching this topic and collaborating my ideas, I have really seen why we need separation between church and state. Euthanasia is clearly against all principles of the Catholic religion. They have a very good argument that our body is not truly ours, but a gift from God in the image of God, and destroying this gift is an insult.
But you cannot forget the freedom we that we built this nation on. Legally, I believe that we should have the right to “euthanize” ourselves in a terminally ill situation. If we don’t want to suffer like that, legally we don’t have to. It may be a sin, but we all have free will to choose to sin. It might not be the best Catholic decision, but we certainly deserve the opportunity to be able to make that decision for ourselves. When someone is deathly ill and cannot communicate with others whatsoever, family members sometimes make the decision of euthanasia for the patient. This is a mistake in my mind. Although they may be doing what the patient wants, you never know what he/she really wants.
It would be a tragedy if the patient wanted to keep fighting and his loved ones murder him. That is why I believe that if euthanasia is to be completely legal, the only person who can make that decision is the patient. In the near future, there would have to be a well devised legal system that the patient would have to go through before being legally approved for the euthanization. But as far as other people making the decision for the patient, I think that should never be legal. There is just no way to tell what the patient wants.
The Catholic Church stated some very good points in my research. I was very influenced by what they had to say as a whole. I do think that euthanasia is morally wrong, but deserves to be legal since we have free will. But I think that Catholic doctrine may want to revise their standpoint. In the extreme cases of terminal illness, I believe that the church could exonerate those who need it and would want to follow through in the act of euthanasia.
After all, we learned in class that under Natural Law, there are three drives that keep us alive: self-preservation, preservation of the species, and the desire to live in a society. When we lose these drives what else keeps us alive? What else is there to live for? I’m sure that some people on their death bed have lost all three of these drives. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that under the most extreme of conditions, if the patient could, in their right mind, make the decision for themselves, then I believe that the decision should be morally approved and legally approved.
I think God would understand. I’m glad that I decided to do this topic. I went into this paper completely behind the idea of euthanasia. I believed that we all should have the right to put ourselves out of misery and put others out of their misery. I also believed that might be legally alright and maybe even morally correct to kill yourself for trivial reasons just because of our own free will.
After researching the Catholic standpoints on the subject, I was heavily influenced in the their direction. I saw many excellent points that the author made. I still didn’t completely give up my conviction to euthanasia, but lessened it to only the most extreme of conditions. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot from my research and I ended up reshaping my philosophy on the principles of euthanasia in today’s society.