‘Euthanasia’ is a Greek word that means ‘happy death. It is used to signify the medical intervention in discontinuing the life of patients with complicated diseases, or those who suffer sever pain from incurable diseases. This intervention is seen as stemming from the doctor’s mercy and pity on his patients. The concept also calls for discontinuing the lives of children or infants who suffer from mental retardation or complicated diseases, thus having mercy upon them and saving them from a callous life.
Supporters of euthanasia are divided into two groups:
1. One group demands the clear and frank approval of the patient before medical intervention to discontinue his life. This is called Voluntary euthanasia.
2.The second group regards the medical opinion in the intervention of discontinuing the life of the patient as sufficient, since it is in the interest of the patient, rescuing him from pain and suffering. In this case the approval of the patient is not necessary. This is called Involuntary Euthanasia. This second group takes into consideration the cases in which the patient is incapable of giving his approval and presupposes that if his condition permitted, he would agree.
The case for euthanasia is built upon three conditions:
1. The Patient’s Desire: Some consider that the patient’s desire to discontinue his life justifies medical intervention to carry out this wish, on the basis that only the patient has the right in choosing death. These people limit their acceptance of medical intervention only when patient approval exists. Hence, they only support Voluntary euthanasia.
2. The Honor of Human Life: Some support euthanasia on the basis of preserving the honor of human life and hence, accept intervention in discontinuing life when that individual has reached a stage that does not agree with such honor. These people take into account some complicated diseases and the symptoms that accompany them, such as: pain, loss of concentration, delirium and lack of control over bodily functions. These are among the cases that they consider as not agreeing with the honor of human life. They consider intervention to discontinue the life of the patient in such cases as not only and act of mercy, but also an act which reserves the honor of the patient. It is obvious that these people do not mean that just any case having these characteristics qualifies for intervention, but they mean that complicated diseases such as AIDS, in which the patient has an incurable disease and wishes to discontinue his life.
3. The Patient’s Interest: Some believe that as long as the intervention to discontinue the life of the patient realizes the interest and good of the patient, it is an acceptable act. Even if the state of the patient makes it difficult for him to give his approval. Euthanasia is a practice that has the appearance of mercy and pity, but from within, there is a denial of basic truths of faith that rely upon matters of life and death. Hence from a religious point of view, it is rejected. Every Christian who has a live conscience must resist the attempts to pass laws that allow it.
Euthanasia is rejected for the following reasons:
1. Human Life is a Gift from God: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7). Man does not have authority to discontinue his life based upon his desire to do so. Likewise, a person’s expression of his desire to discontinue his life, no matter what the reasons are, does not justify others, especially those who work in the medical field to carry out this desire. The acceptance of the principle of a patient’s right to discontinue his life based upon his desire leads to the acceptance of suicide, which, without a doubt, is carried thorough the desire of the person who is committing suicide. Therefore, shall we accept suicide with the excuse that it is the desire of the person committing it?
2. The Honor of Human Life is in Life Itself: No matter what the appearance of this life is, no sickness, pain or physical weakness can destroy the honor of a person. Sin alone destroys human nature and devalues its honor. Sickness is indeed not a part of human nature that God created in complete health. Therefore, man struggles to avoid and treat disease. The presence of disease, no matter how severe it is or what its appearance is, does not justify the medical intervention to discontinue the life of the patient. The aim of medicine is to preserve life, and not to discontinue it for the reason of the inability to present a cure.
3. God Wishes Good for Man, and Allows Sickness for the Good of Man: Sickness has led many people to repentance, and purified their souls and spirits through the crucible of the pain of sickness. The sick person, during the severity of his sickness, is also an educational message for the healthy who do not realize the grace of good health, or for those who indulge in worldly matters and over-value them. It is difficult for us to define, with our human view of matters, what is beneficial for the sick. Hence, with every effort that is made to ease the pains of the sick and every prayer that is raised for the sake of his healing, we leave the matter of the life and death of the sick, in faith and total submission to our Good Lord, Who alone knows what is of benefit to the sick.
Finally, we would like to differentiate between euthanasia and the intervention to remove the medical life-support equipment from a patient who suffers brain death. In the case of euthanasia, the patient is still alive, meaning that his brain is functioning, and so are many of his organs, but there is no hope of a cure. Intervention here is continued life. Therefore, it is considered to be a crime of murder that is not justified by the approval of the patient, the despair of not finding a cure, or supposedly having pity on that patient. As for the second case of brain death, the patient has been separated from life as indicated by the lack of brain function. What appears to be breathing or pulse is actually artificial and relies upon the life-support systems attached to the patient. Intervention to remove these instruments is an act befitting the honor of the deceased, and merciful toward the feelings of relatives and loved ones.