The topic of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has become an increasingly popular social issue lately over the last few years. Some time ago, California and Colorado both passed bills that would allow physician-assisted suicide joining a few other states in the Union embracing this practice. Considering that our culture has taken a deep plunge into post-modernism, bio-ethical issues such as the end of life issues are here to stay and unfortunately will become increasingly more popular at the state level in years to come.
But what is at stake with euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide? Is it really “death with dignity ” as those who are in favor champion it to be?
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have many problems because it’s growth potential are really unknown how the issue will evolve and really a matter of conscience also.
First, lets briefly examine the potential for arbitrary and snowball effect of the end of life issues to happen. This is a huge relative matter with extreme implications for bioethics. For example, If someone wants to voluntarily end their life because of severe unbearable pain, why wouldn’t someone with a less severe condition, let’s say a broken rib (which is totally curable but until fully healed is excruciating) should have the right to self-determine their own death? This is not a scare tactic as most proponents label the slippery slope argument, but it’s more so following the line of reasoning for voluntary euthanasia being applied to all instances of pain one experiences.
What’s stopping doctors from randomly opting for patients for this procedure and abusing the system?
Doctors usually place stipulations on what constitutes a condition that merits euthanasia, but opening the door for this extreme notion of individual choice/autonomy could have drastic further consequences on an already controversial topic, the sanctity of life.
Also, pain is inevitable in our lives. In fact, we are never promised a pain-free life. Therefore, pain must be expected at all stages. Just as a toddler learns to ride a bike and scrapes their knee or an athlete that fractures a body part. When someone is in pain, we don’t try to give them things that inflict or influence more damage, but instead, we try to minimize the effects with care. Just as someone confides in another that they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, the other person doesn’t encourage the behavior but rather would help them find treatment, talk to them about their thoughts, or point them into the direction of a specialist.
Relieving pain should be the foremost thing to do for patients that have serious life issues. Palliative care is essential in helping improve the quality of life for those experiencing serious illness.
Lastly, a major issue that is often ignored is the conscience rights of the physicians. Many physicians may have a moral or professional objection to aiding in a patient’s murder.
Some years ago, Canada legalized physician-assisted suicide. Prior to the bill’s passage, a report titled the Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach was released to detail how Medical Assistance in Dying (“MAID”) could reform an existing Canadian law. There was a debate among health professionals that were worried they would have their conscience violated in order to uphold patient rights. Recommendation 10 from the report states that:
“respecting a health care practitioner’s freedom of conscience while at the same time respecting the needs of a patient who seeks medical assistance in dying. At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient.”
This recommendation fundamentally places those who morally or ethically object in a difficult spot. Although they don’t have to perform the act, providing a referral makes them an accomplice regardless. Being complicit in other behaviors isn’t any better than performing the act itself.
This is no different than certain staunch pro-choice states requiring pro-life clinics to provide referrals. These clinics don’t want to perform this service because they feel it’s counterproductive to their mission and ultimately they’re giving support to an issue they oppose.
How does ALL of this tie with faith?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1868:
“Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– by protecting evil-doers.”
By doctors signing MAID, they are cooperating in sin.
Further, as Christians, we can take comfort in our sufferings and trials because we know that Jesus Christ demonstrated a life on how to handle such situations. When we suffer, affirm God’s sovereign will and control for our lives. Jesus modeled this when he said “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).”
I know some may feel like doctors need to put aside their “personal beliefs ” and have them not interfere with their daily lives. However, people of various faiths simply don’t confine their beliefs to places of worship on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. There are some who live their faith actively in all parts of their lives.
Overall, life is sacred. I strongly believe and affirm that we are created in God’s likeness and image. Therefore, being the reflection of God’s creativity, the receiver of his love, and bearing the imprint of longing for his relationship in our lives, we should turn to God and look for his truth on the natural law of sacredness of life.
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