Euthanasia in the Catholic Church

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1. Identify the problem/Discuss main ethical issues
Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. It can be separated into two distinct categories, voluntary and non-voluntary (voluntary being when the person has asked for their life to be ended and involuntary when the person has given no consent). Euthanasia has been subject to much moral, religious, philosophical, legal and human rights debate across the world. There are multiple viewpoints in regard to the legality and morality of this practice therefore defining it as an ethical issue, however most of the world have rendered it illegal in their respective countries, with the exception of the Benelux Nations (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg). “Overall, most humans look for a dignified, peaceful death for themselves and their families/loved ones, whatever their stance is regarding Euthanasia”. However, the ethical issue arises when artificial termination of life if considered. Euthanasia advocates argue that being disallowed this practice is a breach of human rights, stating that all people should have a right to decide when and how their death should take place. Another pro-Euthanasia argument is to do with mercy, that if a person suffering intolerable pain which cannot be numbed by medication asks to end their life, that they should be given that right. People also believe that Euthanasia is inevitable anyway, and so it would be better for it to be carried out safely in order to prevent accidents. In contrast, the opposing view on Euthanasia (and when taking into consideration the amount of countries that have banned the process, possibly the stronger one) is based on a wide range of valid arguments, ranging from morality to potential short and long-term outcomes. The fact that Euthanasia is basically the ending of one’s life through another’s hands heavily conflicts with most religions and the beliefs and opinions of many people. It also prevents the elderly from living out the final stages of their lives (which some believe are very important), and can potentially cause emotional damage to those close to the individual. However, one of the strongest arguments is that one’s judgement may be impaired due to such emotions as fear of the pain to come, or ‘pressure’ to die due to expensive hospital treatment. It is popular belief that these emotions brought about prevent good judgement, and therefore bad decisions could be made.

2. What is the Catholic Church’s position on Euthanasia? As mentioned above, most religions are very much opposed to Euthanasia: the idea of ending a life at all conflicts with the concept of ‘the sanctity of life’- that humans were given life from God and that it should be respected and not interfered with. The Catholic Church has possibly the strongest ‘anti-euthanasia’ policy out of all the religions. It completely disregards one of the Ten Commandments ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and has been taught as being “morally wrong”. The position that the Church holds against the practice of Euthanasia partially originated from Pope Paul XII, after witnessing the Euthanasia programs that the Nazi’s undertook. In 1980, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its Declaration on Euthanasia which further guided the Catholic community in the moral issues that arose from this practice, especially in a time of increasing life-support machines and aged care in medical facilities. The new Catechism (no 2276-2279) displays the Church’s explanation of the immorality of Euthanasia: “2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.” “Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the...
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