Making decisions to end life have been a significant challenge for many people considering the hardships that come along with terminal sicknesses. Due to this, hospice has made it simpler for the patients and their families by making life better and easing their pain. The institution is aimed at taking care of the person in whole as they view life as sacred and personal. Hospices exercise various principles to offer the best care. First, the patient’s choices, goals, and likes are respected at this stage. However, Christianity is against the action of euthanasia. Taking care of the patient as a whole by considering their emotional, spiritual, social and medical feelings is also one of the principles. This paper discusses the case study of George who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He contemplates euthanasia since he cannot continue to live with the suffering. The paper discusses the Christian worldview around Georges suffering and the available choices for him.
Keywords: euthanasia, hospice, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
End of Life Decisions
Health care decisions subject to individuals to other people’s beliefs and cultures. Chronic diseases come along with a lot of hardships for the victim and the family. Many religions and cultures have substantial value for the institution of the family. Therefore, seeing a relative or a friend in suffering becomes a difficulty. However, religious beliefs are the most significant determinant of the decisions individuals make when faced with a choice of life and death. Moreover, the diversity of the society leads to people are mixing their cultural and religious beliefs in making important life decisions (Shelly, & Miller, 2009). When seeking medical treatment, it is easy for these beliefs to get lost in depending on how critical the medical situation can be(Meilaender, 2013). Initially, patients used to conform to the diagnoses and treatments of Doctors. However, patients are now refusing specific medical therapies based on their beliefs. This paper focuses on the case of George.He is in his 50s and suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The sickness is degenerative and therefore will take his life slowly while he is aware and conscious of his near death. However, since George knowons the progression of the disease, he considers taking euthanasia to end his suffering. This paper will conduct an ethical analysis of George’s situation and his decision from the perspective of the Christian worldview.
In Christianity, it is believed that God created all things in this life. Jesus Christ was created to give God a physical body so that his teachings could be taught and the Bible created. The Christianity view is that illnesses are inflicted on the people by God. Specifically, some believe that it is God’s way to bring the person closer to Him. Furthermore, some Christians think that sickness is God’s way of teaching Christians about Jesus’ suffering. On the contrary, some believe that sickness is caused by the lack of spiritual belief in God. More importantly, Christianity values human life since it is a precious gift from God. Therefore, everyone is worthy to be alive. When faced with a physical or mental illness Christians believe that it is the fallenness that exposes them to the suffering of sicknesses. In the case of George, he lives in a world full of sins. Although he leads a morally upright life, the sins of the world affect all the inhabitants. Therefore, according to Christianity, he is bound to suffer for the sins of the world. However, suffering does not imply that God has abandoned him. His suffering is a form of God’s punishment for sins committed. Therefore, regardless of the kind of sickness he suffers, he can be healed after repentance. However, Christianity also believes that people need to endure suffering until the end of this life.
Christians believe that people continue to live after death. When Jesus comes, all the dead will be resurrected and rise to heaven. The death of Jesus represents payment for the penalty of the sins of humankind. Christians believe they will return to a heavenly home and be with one with God. Therefore, the human body is considered a vessel for life in this world. However, after dying, the body decimates, and the soul goes on to live. George’s ALS degenerative condition only affects his physical body. Therefore, his suffering is not eternal. The sickness is a journey towards the other world after death where people live forever happily. In the journey, the physical human body shuts down through death. However, dying happens through suffering. Moreover, Christians believe that the pain in the current world is only a preparation for the happy life enjoyed in heaven. Therefore, according to the Christian worldview, George should own his suffering and look forward to life after the resurrection in heaven.
The ALS condition results in loss of body functions such as speech, mobility and even breathing. George does not wish a future of dependency for himself. When the degeneration reaches critical levels, George will only move by a wheelchair and require assistance when breathing. Therefore, he will be unable to carry out any activity on his own. The loss of power and dignity devastates him. However, the Christian worldview believes in the value of human life and dignity. Despite his sickness and special needs, George will remain a viable member of society(Shelly, & Miller, 2009). Therefore, he needs to value his life since he is still alive.
George is at a conscious point in his illness and diagnosis. Therefore, due to the fear of suffering and dependency, he is considering euthanasia. Euthanasia and Physician-assisted suicide has caused a stir in the national headlines (Wells Frey & Cataldo, 2013). The debate to justify euthanasia is still heated in many nations. It is common for humans to end the life of an animal to end its suffering (Ravitsky, Fiester & Caplan, 2009). Therefore, it raises the question about doing the same on people in painto help them get peace and end their suffering. The Christians believe that committing suicide or killing someone is going against one of the Ten Commandments that they shall not kill. Euthanasia may be considered as taking one’s own life. Therefore, in Christianity, it is self-murder. Moreover, the Bible states that the Lord gives and also takes away at his own will (Hogan Jr, & Velez, 2013).Terminating one’s life is interpreted as rejecting God’s gift of life in Christianity. Euthanasia is, therefore, denying the entity of God. Abstaining from killing is a primary Christian principle. Similarly, Christians are against harming of a living being. Therefore euthanasia is the intentional killing of a human being. It is also believed in the Christianity that life and death is a cycle that repeats until Nirvana is reached, taking one’s life is just starting the cycle over and subjecting the reincarnation of that person to a life of torment and suffering.
Christianity sees euthanasia or suicide as an ultimate sin. In Christian faith perspectives, diseases and suffering are seen as a life’s natural event. Concerning sickness, Jesus suffered on the cross as the crucifixion resulted in good. Ultimately, it is then seen that suffering emerges a necessary evil. According to “President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research” (1984), Individual perspectives stand that it is essential to help those suffering but not to visualize that at any cost the pain has no purpose or point in our lives and hence cannot be eliminated in human life. Maximizing care for the pain but not to abandon them is a morally right aspect as according to the religion, at all-time attention, never kill (Meilaender, 2013).The Christian faith sees George’s situation as inconvenient nevertheless a natural part of human life. The stipulated verdict does not demean George as a human. In focus on the Christian perspective, George could have sought spiritual leadership from a priest or pastor otherwise ending up his life or suicide is an absolute sin. According to Meilaender(2013), the aspect looks like overtaking God’s duties upon human life. Christianity allows individuals to refuse treatment for the termination of suffering. Consequently, whenever George would proceed to the first ALS stages where the sufferings would be more significant, then he would have opted to deny nourishment and treatments. Unfortunately, Christianity does not morally justify euthanasia. In Christianity, the best option is to provide care and comfort to the sick for the time they have left to live (Meilaender, 2013). Although many Christians agree to the use of medications that ease the pain in palliative care, death follows later.
It is not acceptable to take or help an individual take their own life regardless of a terminal illness. Since God created all living beings, he is the only one with the right to terminate life. Regardless of any individual’s religion, assisted suicide or euthanasia stands to be a controversial topic among numerous people (Hogan Jr, & Velez, 2013). According to the incidence mentioned above, George is facing a devastating condition. Despite the body senses remaining intact, the outcome of the ALS disease is a condition where none of the motors are functional. The aspect drives the person to be contained in the body through which it will require ventilation to breathe. Besides, with George’s condition, his life is relatively meaningless and not enjoyable to live. However, George was diagnosed with the ALS though in early stages where gross motor abilities were functional. From the authors perspective view, it is inappropriate to see euthanasia as a better option out of the many available solutions. However, the victim possibly can live and spend a little more time through a semi-normal life achievable by the treatment that functions to delay the disease advancement (Shelly, & Miller, 2009). At the point when George’s life is much affected by the disease advancement, the author proposes that George holds the rights upon his life termination. According to the author, the right to end and individuals life due to a terminal illness appears a fundamental human right. It is unethical to allow a human being to suffer following various religious beliefs.
In summary, due to the ALS terminal diagnosis, George is facing an unbelievable difficult circumstance. After a while, the progression of the disease will lead to him losing his body motor function despite the senses being intact. Consequently, George would not be able to independently function which will deprive him of various body functions such as eating and breathing. Therefore, assisted suicide or voluntary suicide is the only option to end his suffering. However, Christianity concludes that suicide is inhuman and a form of a natural sin. Therefore, according to the Christian worldview, it is wiser for George to seek religious guidance from religious leaders permanently. Meanwhile, he should continue receiving care and treatment.
Hogan Jr, W. J., & Velez, J. R. (2013). Invoking Shared Beliefs in End-of-Life Decision Making. AMA Journal of Ethics, 15(3), 193-197. Retrieved from https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/invoking-shared-beliefs-end-life-decision-making/2013-03
President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1984). Defining death: Medical, legal and ethical issues in the determination of death. Report of the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research.
Ravitsky, V., Fiester, A., & Caplan, A. L. (Eds.). (2009). The Penn Center guide to bioethics. Springer Publishing Company.
Shelly, J. A., & Miller, A. B. (2009). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing. InterVarsity Press.
Wells, K. R., Frey, R. J., & Cataldo, L. J. (2013). Euthanasia. In Gale (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of nursing and allied health (3rd ed.). Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/galegnaah/euthanasia/0?institutionId=5865Meilaender, G. (2013). Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
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