Euthanasia, commonly known as “mercy killing”, is an act by which a person’s life is ended in order to relieve him or her of the pain and suffering caused by an incurable disease or terminal illness. Euthanasia can either be voluntary, where a patient explicitly opts for it, or non-voluntary, where a patient is unable to make such a decision on his own, and thus his fate is decided by his doctor or family. Involuntary Euthanasia is where a person is killed to relieve him from pain and suffering even if he does not request it.
Moreover, Euthanasia is further categorized as either being active or passive. Active being where a person is put to death by a specific action intending to do so, i. e. giving a patient a lethal dose of medication that leads to an eventual death whereas passive being an act of omission or withdrawal of treatment or medication that eventually leads to the person’s death. With its somewhat humane yet ironic title, “mercy killing”, this concept is subject to a great deal of debate as to how ethical or morally correct it is. Can taking one’s own life or the life of another be justified in this manner?
Ethical stance on Euthanasia: Different ethical schools of thought view Euthanasia differently and hence share their own rationale to either agree or disagree with this concept. Many ethical implications are also tied in with religious ideologies and all of them find no justifiable grounds for this practice. From here, we go forth and look at one of many ethical schools of thought and its grounds for rejecting or accepting euthanasia. Divine Command Theory and Euthanasia: The Divine Command Theory bases ethical behavior on what God has commanded.
Thus, all such actions that are encouraged by God are ethical and just whereas any actions which go against the will of God are not ethical and will never be considered good or moral actions. Thus, we notice that most of the religious schools of thought, which inevitably align themselves with the Divine Command theory, reject the practice of Euthanasia and consider it an action which not only goes against the will of God, but also interferes with the natural system that God has created. Thus, euthanasia is undoubtedly termed as an immoral action in the light of Divine Command Ethics.
If we speak of christens, we notice that most of them who are devout will readily reject the concept of euthanasia. According to the Bible, God created mankind in His own image. Therefore, people have this unique capacity for rational existence and thus, an intrinsic value. Thus, this life should be preserved and respected. Moreover, the religious argument states that God has the ability to create and destroy. We are born according to the will of God and shall also die at His will. We, as humans, have no right to interfere with God’s supreme authority and take those decisions for ourselves, which God has reserved for Himself.
“Christians believe that the intrinsic dignity and value of human lives means that the value of each human life is identical. They don’t think that human dignity and value are measured by mobility, intelligence, or any achievements in life (bbc. co. uk)” Margaret Pabs Battin, the author of “Ending Life: Ethics and the Way We Die” quotes in her book: … This is St. Thomas Aquinas’s view of the morality of suicide. “… to kill oneself is altogether unlawful for three reasons. First, because everything loves itself, it is thus proper for everything to keep itself in being and resist decay as far as it can.
Therefore, to kill on self is contrary to natural inclination, and contrary to charity according to which everyone ought to love himself. Hence self-killing is always a mortal sin, inasmuch as it stands against natural law and charity. Second, because everything that is a part belongs to a whole, every man is part of a community, and as such is of the community. Therefore, he who kills himself injures the community… Third, because life is a gift divinely given to man, and subject to the power of Him who kills and makes life Therefore, he who deprives himself of life sins against God…
To God alone belongs the power over death and life… ” Most religions are more or less similar in their stance towards euthanasia. They all reject that fact that mercy killing can be benefit in any way at all. All or most religions view the process of death as a spiritual experience and hence would not want this process to be interfered with. It is understandable that a person is in pain and agony, however, that does not mean a person automatically assumes the right to take his own life. Divine command ethics extend further to scriptures. Scriptural divine command theories are born from the scriptures of God sent down to mankind.
In Islam, the Quran, in Christianity, the Bible, and so on, this theory states that the will of God is stated in His scriptures. Thus we note, one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-10) strictly prohibits all kinds of killing: ‘Thou shall not kill’ It could be argued that euthanasia is a form of killing and therefore can be deemed biblically immoral. Additionally, the slippery slope argument states that if the act of mercy killing is considered morally correct, then there is a high chance that it is used, over-used and misused by all those who wish to gain in some way or the other by ending one’s life or by simply “playing God”.
Counter-Arguments: Even though the theory of Divine Command denies the practice of mercy killing, some question on how wrong or right divine command may be. Is Divine Command simply ethical and right because it is Divine Command, or does God issue such command because it is right and ethical? Is Divine Command based more on God’s impulse? Such arguments try to validate as well as reject the theory of Divine Command. Moreover, in this case the act of euthanasia can be re-questioned and its immorality can be challenged once again. Conclusion
To sum up, euthanasia is still a topic which is open to endless debate and argument. In terms of Divine Command ethics, mercy killing is considered an immoral act as it goes against the will of God. Euthanasia as many other implications as well on family members of the one “euthanized”, the society as a whole and the doctors who play an active role in practicing this act. All those who believe that a supreme being (God) exists, will outright deny the act of mercy killing.
- Religious view of Euthanasia, Retrieved from worldwide internet on 18th May 2010 from, http://www. bbc. co. uk/religion/religions/christianity/christianethics/euthanasia_1. shtml
- Book Title: Ending Life: Ethics and the Way We Die. Contributors: Margaret Pabst Battin – author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2005. Page Number: 5.
- http://de. blackrivertech. org/faculty/The_Examined_Life/theexaminedlife/exllesson18/exl18summary. htm
- Some counter arguments retrieved from the worldwide Internet on 18th May 2010 from, http://www. blurtit. com/q512069. html