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Natural Death and Euthanasia: The Catholic Church’s Historical Response

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of euthanasia is “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”. In contemporary society, it is becoming more acceptable for individuals with terminal illnesses and disorders of the brain to choose to end their lives through euthanasia. This perspective recognizes the value of a certain quality of life over life itself. While the acceptance of euthanasia is dependent upon location and religion, it has been a more controversial topic in modern times, than it ever has before. However, the Catholic Church, which promotes the value and dignity of human life, maintains the perspective that euthanasia is both a violent crime and murder.

The Catholic Church views euthanasia as a violent crime and murder that is completely unacceptable. Pope Francis stated that “euthanasia is a sin against God and creation”. Also, the Catholic Church defines euthanasia as an act of mortal sin and a direct contrary to the practices of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As practicing Catholics we have been taught that our life is sacred, and we should never intentionally kill another human being. We should remember the fifth or sixth commandment when thinking about euthanasia: “thou shalt not kill” this is because euthanasia can be interpreted as an act of murder.

In today’s society euthanasia has been categorized in three ways. The first type is active euthanasia, which means the death is caused by a lethal injection of drugs. The second type is passive euthanasia which denies any action to prolong the life of the person. The third type is involuntary euthanasia, this type goes against patients’ wishes; this is considered murder. Another way to look at euthanasia would be from a financial standpoint. As the population of the elderly lives longer, the healthcare industry will be more expensive to run and therefore policymakers and doctors will consider euthanasia as an option for cost containment. “Starting in the 1950s a series of Gallup Polls asked if voluntary euthanasia should be permitted by law if the patient is incurably ill, 36 percent answered yes in 1950, 53 percent in 1973, 60 percent in 1977, 65 percent in 1985, and 69 percent in 1990”.

Euthanasia is not a modern concept. Greeks and Romans supported the act of euthanasia in ancient times. During that time doctors did not follow the Hippocratic Oath. The Hippocratic Oath is as follows: “I will use the treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course”. Also, during ancient times, Saint Augustine believed that suicide went against God’s word meaning that you are destroying God’s creation and that is not something you should do only God can take your life because he was the one that created you.

During medieval times “Saint Thomas Aquinas went even further in his declarations against suicide. He proclaimed it was a mortal sin, contrary to natural law, damaging to the community, and a symbol of humans involving themselves in what was a divine decision. His beliefs became a part of the Christian religion, particularly the Roman Catholic Church”. The Catholic Church still practices the beliefs of Saint Thomas Aquinas today because they believe that euthanasia is still wrong and should never be allowed.

In modern times in the year of 1885 euthanasia was disapproved by the American Medical Association. A few years later, in 1891, a Supreme Court statement concluded that if a person desires to die, he or she should have complete control of that action. During a 1957 address from Pope Pius XII to a gathering of doctors, he stated, “that a doctor was obliged only to supply “ordinary treatment to seriously ill patients who were deeply unconscious.” “Extraordinary” treatment included artificial respiration. As long as the unconscious patient’s prior wish to die was known and he or she was “of age”, the doctor was not bound to attempt resuscitation, doing so to be a “burden” on the patient’s family. To Pius, it was no sin for doctors to let nature take its course under these circumstances”. In 1990 people became more aware of the practice of euthanasia because of a doctor by the name of Jack Kevorkian. He performed an act of euthanasia on a person who suffered from a disease known as Alzheimer’s.

In the United States, Oregon, California, Vermont, Montana, and Washington all have legalized “physician-assisted” suicide. In the rest of the United States, active euthanasia is prohibited and illegal. However, passive euthanasia, which allows the person to deny any treatment to prolong their life, is permitted. Oregon, California, Vermont, Montana, and Washington all go against the Catholic Churches’ view on euthanasia, but the rest of the united states agree with the Catholic Churches’ view on euthanasia.

In 2002 Belgium legalized euthanasia. However, there were certain criteria that needed to be followed. The first criteria are the input of two doctors and a phycologist. The second criteria are focused on the patient and doctor deciding how the act of euthanasia will be performed. The country of Belgium goes against how the Catholic Church feels about euthanasia.

In Columbia, South America, euthanasia is allowed for patients who are terminally ill. To be eligible for an act of euthanasia you need to have certain diseases. Some of those diseases are “AIDS, kidney or liver failure, cancer, or any disease with extreme suffering”. When euthanasia became legal in Columbia the first person to die was a seventy-nine-year-old man by the name of Ovidio Gonzalez. The Catholic Churches in Columbia view euthanasia as morally wrong and they have threatened to close hospitals in the country that have performed an act of euthanasia. The country of Columbia allows euthanasia for people that are terminally ill, and the Catholic Church does not agree.

India only allows passive euthanasia, which allows the removal of life support to patients in a persistent vegetative state. Passive euthanasia was legalized in 2011. The supreme court in India was the one that declared passive euthanasia legal. India agrees with the Catholic Church because they only allow passive euthanasia and no other type of euthanasia.

In Ireland, any act of euthanasia is totally illegal. A person can receive up to fifteen years in prison performing the act of euthanasia. The next big discussion that will soon take place in Ireland will be about the legalization of euthanasia. A large population of Ireland agrees with how the Catholic Church feels because they believe that any act of euthanasia is wrong and that people should be punished for it.

“Luxembourg was the third country in the European Union to legalize Euthanasia. In order for the law to be utilized it needs approval from a panel of experts and two doctors”. The country of Luxembourg goes against the teaching of the Catholic church because they have legalized euthanasia.

Mexico City, Mexico, has legalized euthanasia. More than half of Mexico City’s population approves of the performance of euthanasia. Most of Mexico agrees with the Catholic Churches’ view on euthanasia the only part of Mexico that does not in Mexico City.

“The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide”. In order for euthanasia to take place, the patient must be completely aware of what is to be performed. They must also have an incurable disease with extreme pain. A lethal cocktail of drugs is administered to complete the act. The Netherlands goes against what the Catholic Church avows because they permit the act of euthanasia.

In the Catholic Church’s Religious perspective according to the Catechism “Human life is sacred because from the beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until the end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being”. As practicing Catholics we believe that God has created us and that when are we near the end of our life our life should end naturally without human assistance. In 1980 the Vatican declared that they are against euthanasia. They believe that performing the act of euthanasia is considered to be just as wrong as murder. “The Catholic Church recognizes that a dying person has the moral option to refuse extraordinary treatments that only minimally prolong” so therefore the Catholic Church is for passive euthanasia.

Buddhists believe the act of euthanasia is morally wrong. They feel that life should be respected and never be allowed to end just because they are suffering. Buddhism and Catholicism share similar beliefs in the reference to euthanasia.

Mormons are opposed to euthanasia. They believe that passive euthanasia can be performed on a terminally ill person. “They believe that life is a blessing and purposeful of external existence”. The Mormons and the Catholic share some of the same beliefs on euthanasia.

Lutherans believe that euthanasia goes against the teachings of their church. Also, Lutherans believe that God created them, and taking a life is contrary to the teachings of their religion. They believe in love and caring to the suffering which is considered passive euthanasia. The Lutherans and the Catholics believe in some of the same thoughts in reference to euthanasia because they both believe it goes against their religion.

Episcopalians are against active euthanasia which means that do not allow lethal drugs to kill a patient. When a person is suffering from an incurable disease they believe it to be morally wrong to end their life. Passive euthanasia is acceptable to their religion. The Episcopalians and the Catholics have some of the same beliefs on euthanasia.

The Greek Orthodox perspective on euthanasia follows that Sixth Commandment stating, “Thou shall not kill”. Like most of the other religions, the Greek Orthodox also believe in passive euthanasia. Their religion also states that taking the life of a human being is not permissible. Both the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church believe that euthanasia is against the commandment “Thou shall not kill”.

There is no formal Hinduism teaching on euthanasia. They believe that ending a life creates negative karma. There are some Hindus that believe you can ask your doctor to end your life if you can no longer pray or worship due to sickness. But, most Hindus would not necessarily agree with this request. Hinduism and Catholicism both believe that euthanasia is wrong but they both have different ideas on why it is wrong.

“Muslims believe that life is sacred and comes from God; therefore, it is a sin to take a life”. They believe that death is in the hands of God. Suffering in the end of life is necessary to absolve your sins and meet God with a purist state of being. Muslims and Catholics both believe that life is sacred and should not be ended by euthanasia.

“The message of Judaism is that one must struggle until the last breath of life. Until that last moment one has to live and rejoice and give thanks to the Creator”. They believe in passive euthanasia and also believe that we are God’s children and that God should control our final destination of life. The religion of Judaism is related to the religion of Catholicism because both religions believe that human beings should struggle and suffer until they die, and nothing should interfere with that.

In conclusion, as a practicing Catholic, I perceive euthanasia as morally wrong and should never be performed on humans. I feel that if a human is suffering at the end of their life it’s an obligation for our love of God to show suffering like Jesus Christ did for us. Also, I believe that euthanasia should never have been legalized. By performing an act of euthanasia, we are going against what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that no human has the right to take another one’s life.

Work Cited

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  2. Afp. “Ireland’s Euthanasia Laws Are Some of the Most Strict in Europe.” TheJournal.ie, www.thejournal.ie/euthanasia-laws-right-to-die-1837170-Jan2015/.
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  15. Liu, Joseph. “Religious Groups’ Views on End-of-Life Issues | Pew Research Center.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, 14 Mar. 2014, www.pewforum.org/2013/11/21/religious-groups-views-on-end-of-life-issues/.
  16. Pavone, Frank A. “A Catholic View on Euthanasia.” Catholic News Agency, Catholic News Agency, www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/euthanasia-and-assisted-suicide/a-catholic-view-on-euthanasia.
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  18. Reville, William. “Next Big Debate in Ireland Will Be about Assisted Suicide.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times, 21 June 2018, www.irishtimes.com/news/science/next-big-debate-in-ireland-will-be-about-assisted-suicide-1.3531784.
  19. Squires, Nick. “Pope Francis Denounces Euthanasia as ‘Sin against God’.” Pope Francis Denounces Euthanasia as ‘Sin against God’ , 15 Nov. 2014, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/the-pope/11233347/Pope-Francis-denounces-euthanasia-as-sin-against-God.html.
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Natural Death and Euthanasia: The Catholic Church’s Historical Response. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-death-and-euthanasia-the-catholic-churchs-historical-response/
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Natural Death and Euthanasia: The Catholic Church’s Historical Response. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-death-and-euthanasia-the-catholic-churchs-historical-response/> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
Natural Death and Euthanasia: The Catholic Church’s Historical Response [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-death-and-euthanasia-the-catholic-churchs-historical-response/
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