Euthanaisa – Yay or Nay?

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After reading the material for this week, 2 words popped into my mind: Hope and Equality.

Hope – the Wiki about Locked-in Syndrome named a few notable cases of people who had the syndrome.  I must admit, the suffering that these people went through (or are going through) is almost unimaginable.  But, hope still seems to prevail. Some of them made the most of their circumstances and wonderful things resulted.  It would be interesting to see how many people support the idea of euthanasia who are religious.  The atheist would argue that religious types would be opposed to euthanasia because their god says its wrong.  I tend to believe its because the religious types have a sense of hope that the atheists do not.  Tony Nicklinson seemed without hope, was a self-proclaimed atheist and technically ‘killed’ himself – coincidence?

Equality – In Death Becomes Him, Ludwig Minelli is quoted as saying that the right to die is “the last human right”.  He thinks we should all have the right to decide when and how we will die.  He implies we should all be equally able to make this decision.  However, the process people have to follow at Dignitas does not seem one of equality.  It very much seems like one of inequality, profitability and elitism.  (Check out the Wiki on Dignitas…)

It apparently costs R 52,701 (4,000 euros) – R 92,227 (7,000 euros) for assisted suicide at Dignitas, not including the airfares and other costs involved.  Only the upper-crust can decide if they are ‘worthy’ of dying.  Dignitas has repeatedly refused to open its finances to the public, despite being a non-profit organization.

Dignitas opened an office in Hanover, Germany in 2005. This article from The Washington Post, reported on it.  Kurt Bliefernicht, director of Hospice Luise, across town from Dignitas’ office in Hanover, refuses to give out Dignitas’ number to people calling asking for their number.  He fervently opposes assisted suicide, which he calls “a really cheap” way out. He said he tries to chat with the callers about hospice care and other alternatives. People are most often driven to consider suicide out of fear and ignorance, he said.

“That shows that this is a real problem in Germany, as far as awareness goes,” he said. “We’ve forgotten how to deal with death and dying. We don’t know how to talk about it.”

In the same article, Margot Kaessmann, the Lutheran bishop for Hanover said the following about desperate people:

“These people need treatment,” said Margot Kaessmann, the Lutheran bishop for Hanover. “They need new possibilities for life. They might take a dangerous shortcut instead of listening to people who love them and take care of them. For me, that’s not dying with dignity. That’s very sad.”

From a Christian perspective, I feel the following questions are important to ask:

  • Does life cease to have ‘meaning’ beyond certain thresholds of suffering or loss of vital functions?
  • Can we find meaning in suffering?
  • If we believe God is the source of truth and wisdom, should we not turn to Him when we are suffering?
  • Is there ever a situation where euthanasia is not ‘murder’ i.e. do the ends ever justify the means?
  • If we believe life is sacred, when should we draw the line between ‘preserving life’ and ‘prolonging death’?

Interesting reading from a Christian viewpoint:

  1. Who is really ‘playing God’—the doctor who euthanizes a dying patient, or the doctor who extends the life of a terminally ill patient?
  2. “What does the Bible say about euthanasia and/or having a living will?”