Religious opinion on Euthanasia

Religious opinion on Euthanasia

A majority of the religious opposition to euthanasia comes from the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican's 1980 declaration on euthanasia states, 'suffering has a special place in God's saving plan'. The Pope also reiterated that Catholics "must obey or risk losing eternal salvation". Dr Edmund Pellegrino is a devout Catholic and an authority on medical ethics. He was quoted as claiming he "could never carry out a mercy killing because of his religion". Yet when reminded that it was often Catholics who approved of war. Dr Pellegrino replied, "That he was a lifelong pacifist". There appears to be a conflict between one of his church's fundamental beliefs and his own personal belief. Opposition to euthanasia also comes from Muslim teachings; 'When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour, nor can they bring it forward by a single hour' (Qur'an 16.61), translated as, only Allah can choose the length of life a person has. The Jewish faith also holds very similar views. They preach of an injured King Saul, ordering a young soldier to kill him after a battle, to avoid him being captured alive. King David later had the soldier executed for murder, stating that superior orders were valueless compared to those of an individuals' conscience. Three religions come close to the acceptance of euthanasia. The first is Hinduism, which concentrates on the consequences of actions. Their doctrines outline that euthanasia cannot be allowed, as it breaches the teaching of ahimsa (doing harm). However, in contrast to this, doing a good deed would be fulfilling a moral obligation. The second is Buddhism. Buddhists believe the way a life ends, will influence greatly the way the next life begins. The transition between an existing life and the next depends on an individual's 'Karma' at the point of death; however, there is no telling if the next life will be an improvement from the last. When a Buddhist dies their state of mind should be selfless, enlightened, free of anger, hate or fear. Buddha himself demonstrated a tolerance of suicide and in the last century, Buddhist monks practiced it as a political weapon, as a protest against the Vietnam War. The Japanese Samurai culture is the third tradition to play host to a form of euthanasia. Originally when a warrior lost his battle, and was imminently going to face death from the enemy, or was so badly wounded he could no longer be a useful member of his society, they would opt for a mercy killing from a third party. Today's Seppuku Ritual is carried out on the same basis. If an individual believes that disease is bringing him imminent death, he will self-inflict a serious stab wound. Once this has been achieved, the third party will then behead him, to bring death about swiftly and reduce the time of his suffering. Most interpretations of the west's Christian Bible, concludes that the gift of life given to us by 'God' is sacrosanct. As a result it is only His decision when to terminate that life. However, the Bible also believes that 'God' created animals, so therefore we ought to apply the same rule to animals and indeed, to deny a swift, merciful death to a suffering and terminally ill dog is a punishable offence, according to law. Christians also argue that man is not an animal, because he has an immortal soul, but if the human race is significantly different from animals, surely this treatment should better, if not the same. Currently there are strong movements in North America, Western Europe and countries of the British Commonwealth, to legalize the careful practise of euthanasia, if a dog's suffering can be legally terminated, why not a man's? These beliefs are mainly Christian and Jewish, but today's Britain is primarily a secular society, with ever decreasing numbers of worshippers' actually making efforts to attend church services. It seems that today's churchgoers would rather take a 'pick and choose' attitude about their faith and what element of it they follow. Arguments against euthanasia from ancient texts, such as the Bible and Koran, who believe that mercy killing should be legalised are not convincing for the 29% of non-believers in the United Kingdom.

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