Euthanaisa – Yay or Nay?


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?”

Just Equality

The topic for Week 3 of the Professional Ethics Course is: “Are we really all equal?”

(Apologies for the lack of posts, life doesn’t seem to care that I’m trying to blog, in fact I think it’s trying it’s best to undermine my efforts!)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek [race], bond nor free [social status], male or female [gender equality], for we are all one under Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28






In my mind the word equal means ‘EXACTLY THE SAME AS’ (for a better definition of Equality, see Sheila Marie’s post here).  Maybe it comes from the good ol’ days in maths class.  Whenever you saw a “=” sign it meant that what followed was the precise answer to the question.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  So when I try answer the question, “Are we all created equal?”, it confuses my brain a little.  Are we really all exactly the same?  There are so many aspects to this question…

Are we created the same way?  Usually a sperm and egg are involved, then LIFE happens

Are we made up of the same ‘stuff’?  Yup, blood, guts, bones and some DNA

Do we believe the same things, do we think the same, do we make the same choices?  No, no and no

Are we entitled to the same things?  Yes

Do we have the same abilities and interests?  Nope

Are we essentially, equal?  Yes

Is everyone treated equally?  Definitely not

Should we be trying to remedy this?  YES

As a Physiotherapist in South Africa, I am expected to treat ALL patients and human beings equally.  The South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) Member Credo states: “I will place health care above consideration of race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, social standing, political allegiance or nature of disease”.  The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) sees it as my responsibility as a Health Professional to: “at all times act in the best interests of my patients; and to respect patient confidentiality, privacy, choices and dignity”.  In terms of my faith, I am also told to treat everyone the same, but it’s not always easy is it?  It’s sometimes hard to realize that we can engage with people about their beliefs, religion, politics, sexual preferences, etc. without necessarily agreeing with them.  That we can respect their views without adopting them as our own.

Now what about Justice?  Should we try to treat everyone equally and leave it at that?  Justice by definition means being fair and reasonable.  Treating someone equally without trying to correct an imbalance or disability won’t always help.  An example would be allowing a child with a disability to attend a ‘normal’ school without attempting to cater for their disability.  Equal access doesn’t mean equal function or participation.  It’s sometimes easier to treat people equally instead of just.  I found this picture to better illustrate the difference between Equality and Justice.

Equality doesn't mean Justice








I really enjoyed Reham’s post about her experience with people assuming things from the way she dresses.  You can read her post here.  What an honest and insightful post.  Assumptions can be dangerous and hurtful.  I learnt anew not to assume anything because I will most often get it wrong!  Treating someone equally means allowing them the freedom to just be themselves.

Lastly, I like the way Chantelle summed up her post on Equality (it’s something I strive for as well):

I believe that focusing on how you act and engage with others, is what is important. It is a personal goal to try and see people without judgement, as your equal, a human being, deserving of equal respect, protection, understanding, kindness and care.