Euthanasia and the Right to Life
Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, is the intentional taking of the life of a dependent human being by a commission or omission of an act for his or her alleged benefit to prevent suffering or other undesired conditions in life.
The dilemma in Euthanasia is seen in the term that it implies- “mercy killing”, which shouldn’t be a dilemma in the first place, but a wrong use of words. Mercy is the withholding of a punishment for which every man is due. Killing, well, killing is causing death by any means. In the case of euthanasia, life seems to be the punishment and killing is the means to eradicate the “punishment” from existence.
It might be logically assumed that since every human being has a right to life, it should follow that one has a right to end it. However, this reasoning is false and misguided. Human life is inviolable.
The right to life is given to everybody, not because they deserve it or earn it but because it has been freely given. No one has a right to end it, even if one says it is his or her own, because they are not the one who created it, let alone gave it to anyone including themselves.
Furthermore, euthanasia aims to relieve a dependent human from his/ her suffering or other undesired conditions in life for his/her alleged benefit. Then, if this is the case, we should accept abortion as well.
We consider an unborn child human, with dignity and personhood, even from the time the two sex cells join and fertilize. The developing embryo is in constant battle for life as it is challenged by microbial infections, anatomical and physiological inadequacies, and the fact that the embryo is greatly and directly dependent on his/her mother. This is the same case for an adult, battling for life, greatly challenged by environmental pressures.
As far as euthanasia is concerned in ending pain and suffering, pain and suffering exists all around us. A poor widowed mother suffers as she tries any kind of work just to feed her many children; a teenage girl is in pain and suffering when she is repeatedly molested by her step-father; a middle-aged teacher is suffering as she struggles to battle cancer; a mother is in pain and suffering as she labors her pregnancy. All of these are matters of life and death. Can we just kill them all very quickly to end their pain and suffering? We certainly cannot!
Health care practice, to which I am involved, teaches the principle of stewardship. This means that we are accountable to taking care of everything created. The Bible proclaims this in the first chapter of its first book:
Genesis 1:28 (CEV)
“28God gave them His blessings and said: have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.”
Human or not, we are to take care of every living thing on earth. That is why it is still hard for animal advocates to accept euthanasia for severely ill and injured pets. I am not saying that humans are comparable to animals, I am emphasizing that we are care takers of every living thing, most especially other people to whom we can directly relate with. The moral aspects of Nonmaleficence (do no harm) and beneficence (do good) also come to picture. They call upon health care workers to be advocates of life- protecting and supporting it, quality or not.
Just imagine a nurse approaching you or a loved one as a patient being in a state of severe illness and poor quality of life, saying, “do you want to die instead? It would be easier and quicker. You’ll do everyone a favor!” I certainly would not want him or her near me.
Not just because life is in its poorest quality doesn’t mean we have to end it. After all, does quality life only mean life without pain and suffering? Life is sacred whether or not one is well or not. The sanctity of life is not drawn from whether one has a frail body or not, but how it is used to honor and glorify its Creator.
Mark Driscoll explains the beauty and essence of life in his book Doctrine quite well:
“The Bible teaches that creation in general and human life in particular were made by God, belong to God, exist for God, are restless apart from God, and will return to God. If you do not believe in the doctrine of creation, you likely believe that you came from no one, you are alive on the earth for nothing, and that when you die you will go nowhere.”
Our life was made by God and belongs to God. Our life, whether full of pain and suffering, or abundant and prosperous, exists for God’s purpose. It is for accomplishing His purpose and for us to build our faith on. So, we should look at pain and suffering, ours or another’s, as serving His purpose. I like what the book of Romans in the Bible says about suffering:
Romans 5: 3-5 (CEV)
“3… we gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope 5 that will never disappoint us.
The point is whether it is us or someone else that’s suffering, we should endure with the hope that at the moment our life is over, it will return to God. The pain and the suffering would also end as soon as one’s life on earth ends. And, the absence of pain and suffering after life on earth is eternal.
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