Religious Views On Euthanasia Essay

There are many religious views on euthanasia, although many moral theologians are critical of the procedure.


Main article: Buddhism and euthanasia

There are many views among Buddhists on the issue of euthanasia, but many are critical of the procedure.

An important value of Buddhism teaching is compassion. Compassion is used by some Buddhists as a justification for euthanasia because the person suffering is relieved of pain.[1] However, it is still immoral "to embark on any course of action whose aim is to destroy human life, irrespective of the quality of the individual's motive." [2]

In Theravada Buddhism a lay person daily recites the simple formula: "I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings."[3] For Buddhist monastics (bhikkhu) however the rules are more explicitly spelled out. For example, in the monastic code (Patimokkha), it states:

"Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): 'My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,' or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion."[1]




The Declaration on Euthanasia is the Church's official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980.[5]

Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a "crime against life" and a "crime against God".[5] The teaching of the Catholic Church on euthanasia rests on several core principles of Catholic ethics, including the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, concomitant human rights, due proportionality in casuistic remedies, the unavoidability of death, and the importance of charity.[5] It has been argued that these are relatively recent positions,[6] but whatever the position of individual Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church's viewpoint is unequivocal.[7]


Protestantdenominations vary widely on their approach to euthanasia and physician assisted death. Since the 1970s, Evangelical churches have worked with Roman Catholics on a sanctity of life approach, though some Evangelicals may be adopting a more exceptionless opposition. While liberal Protestant denominations have largely eschewed euthanasia, many individual advocates (such as Joseph Fletcher) and euthanasia society activists have been Protestant clergy and laity. As physician assisted dying has obtained greater legal support, some liberal Protestant denominations have offered religious arguments and support for limited forms of euthanasia.however they are leaner then the Roman Catholic Church

Christians in support of euthanasia[edit]

Groups claiming to speak for Christians rather than the official viewpoints of the Christian clergy have sprung up in a number of countries.[8]


See also: Prayopavesa

There are two Hindu points of view on euthanasia. By helping to end a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfilling their moral obligations. On the other hand, by helping to end a life, even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth. This is a bad thing to do, and those involved in the euthanasia will take on the remaining karma of the patient.[9]

It is clearly stated in the Vedas that man has only two trust worthy friends in life, the first is called Vidya (knowledge), and the 2nd is called Mrityu (Death). The former is something that is beneficial and a requirement in life, and the latter is something that is inevitable sometimes even unexpected. It is not the euthanasia that is the act of sin, but worldy attachment which causes euthanasia to be looked upon as an act of sin. Even a Sannyasin or Sannyasini if they decide to, are permitted to end his or her life with the hope of reaching moksha i.e. emancipation of the soul.


Muslims are against euthanasia.They believe that all humans life is sacred because it is given by God, and that God chooses how long each person lives. Human beings should not interfere in this.[10][11] It is forbidden for a Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance.[12]


Main article: Sallekhana

Jainism is based on the principle of non-violence (ahinsa) and is best known for it. Jainism recommends voluntary death or sallekhana for both ascetics and srāvaka (householders) at the end of their life.Sallekhana (also known as Santhara, Samadhi-marana) is made up of two words sal (meaning 'properly') and lekhana, which means to thin out. Properly thinning out of the passions and the body is sallekhana. A person is allowed to fast unto death or take the vow of sallekhana only when certain requirements are fulfilled. It is not considered suicide as the person observing it, must be in a state of full consciousness. When observing sallekhana, one must not have the desire to live or desire to die. Practitioner shouldn't recollect the pleasures enjoyed or, long for the enjoyment of pleasures in the future. The process is still controversial in parts of India. Estimates for death by this means range from 100 to 240 a year.[17] Preventing santhara invites social ostracism.[18]


Like the trend among Protestants, Jewish medical ethics have become divided, partly on denominational lines, over euthanasia and end of life treatment since the 1970s. Generally, Jewish thinkers oppose voluntary euthanasia, often vigorously,[19] though there is some backing for voluntary passive euthanasia in limited circumstances.[20] Likewise, within the Conservative Judaism movement, there has been increasing support for passive euthanasia (PAD)[21] In Reform Judaismresponsa, the preponderance of anti-euthanasia sentiment has shifted in recent years to increasing support for certain passive euthanasia options.[citation needed] Secular Judaism is a separate category with increasing support for euthanasia.[22] A popular sympathiser for euthanasia is Rabbi Miriam Jerris.[23]

A study performed in 2010 investigated elderly Jewish women who identified themselves as either Hasidic Orthodox, non-Hasidic Orthodox, or secularized Orthodox in their faith. The study found that all of the Hasidic Orthodox responders disapproved of voluntary euthanasia whereas a majority of the secularized Orthodox responders approved of it.[24]


In Japan, where the dominant religion is Shinto, 69% of the religious organisations agree with the act of voluntary passive euthanasia.[25] The corresponding figure was 75% when the family asked for it. In Shinto, the prolongation of life using artificial means is a disgraceful act against life.[25] Views on active euthanasia are mixed, with 25% Shinto and Buddhist organisations in Japan supporting voluntary active euthanasia.

Unitarian Universalism[edit]

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) recommends observing the ethics and culture of the resident country when determining euthanasia. In 1988 the UUA gathered to share a commitment to The Right to Die with Dignity document which included a resolution supporting self-determination in dying.[26]

Influence of religious views[edit]

Religious views on euthanasia are both varied and complicated. While one's view on the matter doesn't necessarily connect directly to their religion, it often impacts a person's opinion. While the influence of religion on one's views toward palliative care do make a difference, they often play a smaller role than one may think. An analysis of the connection between the religion of US adults and their view on euthanasia was done in order to see how they combine. The findings concluded that the religious affiliation one associates with does not necessarily connect with their stance on euthanasia. [27] Research shows that while many belong to a specific religion, they may not always see every aspect as relevant to them.

Some metadata analysis has supported the hypothesis that nurses’ attitudes towards euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are influenced by religion and world view. Attributing more importance to religion also seems to make agreement with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide less likely.[28] A 1995 study of public opinion found that the tendency to see a distinction between active euthanasia and suicide was clearly affected by religious affiliation and education.[29] In Australia, more doctors without formal religious affiliation were sympathetic to active voluntary euthanasia, and acknowledged that they had practised it, than were doctors who gave any religious affiliation. Of those identifying with a religion, those who reported a Protestant affiliation were intermediate in their attitudes and practices between the agnostic/atheist and the Catholic groups. Catholics recorded attitudes most opposed, but even so, 18 per cent of Catholic medical respondents who had been so requested, recorded that they had taken active steps to bring about the death of patients.[30]

See also[edit]



  • Kakar, Sudhir (2014), "A Jain Tradition of Liberating the Soul by Fasting Oneself", Death and Dying, Penguin UK, ISBN 9789351187974 
  • Jain, Vijay K. (2011), Acharya Umasvami's Tattvârthsûtra, Vikalp Printers, ISBN 978-81-903639-2-1,  
  1. ^ abKeown, Damien. “End of life: the Buddhist View,” Lancet 366 (2005): 953. SocINDEX with full text, EBSCOhost.
  2. ^Keown, Damien. “End of life: the Buddhist View,” Lancet 366 (2005): 954. SocINDEX with full text, EBSCOhost.
  3. ^This is the first of the Five Precepts. It has various interpretations.
  4. ^Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1994). Buddhist Monastic Code I: Chapter 4, Parajika. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  5. ^ abc"Declaration on Euthanasia". Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 5 May 1980. 
  6. ^McDougall H, It's popularly believed that Catholics are anti-euthanasia. Do Catholics believe we don't have the freedom to do as we like? The Guardian 27 August 2009
  7. ^Catechism of the Catholic Church
  8. ^In Australia:
  9. ^"Religion & Ethics - Euthanasia". BBC. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  10. ^Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 71. University of Southern California. Hadith 7.71.670. 
  11. ^Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6485. 
  12. ^Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6480. 
  13. ^"Fasting to Death" in: Docker C, Five Last Acts – The Exit Path, 2013:428-432 (details benefits and difficulties)
  14. ^Colors of Truth Religion, Self and Emotions: Perspectives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Sikhism and Contemporary Psychology by Sonali Bhatt Marwaha, 2006:125.
  15. ^For example, J. David Bleich, Eliezer Waldenberg
  16. ^Such as the writings of Daniel Sinclair, Moshe Tendler, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Moshe Feinstein
  17. ^See Elliot Dorff and, for earlier speculation, Byron Sherwin.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^Baeke, Goedele, Jean-Pierre Wils, and Bert Broeckaert, “‘We are (not) the master of our body’: elderly Jewish women’s attitudes towards euthanasia and assisted suicide,” Ethnicity and Health 16, no. 3 (2011): 259-278, SocINDEX with full text, EBSCOhost.
  21. ^ ab"9.3. Implications of Japanese religious views toward life and death in medicine". Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  22. ^Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook - Page 24, Jennifer Fecio McDougall, Martha Gorman - 2008
  23. ^Moulton, Benjamin E., Terrence D. Hill, and Amy Burdette. "Religion and Trends in Euthanasia Attitudes among U.S. Adults, 1977–2004." Sociological Forum 21.2 (2006): 249-72. Web.
  24. ^Religion and Nurses’ Attitudes to Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, Nursing Ethics 2009. The subject is also dealt with at length in Johannes A. van der Ven, Hans-Georg Ziebertz (eds.) Human Rights and the Impact of Religion, Koninklijke 2013.
  25. ^Caddell D, Newton R, Euthanasia: American attitudes toward the physician's role. Soc Sci Med. 1995 Jun;40(12):1671-81.
  26. ^Baume P, O'Malley E, Bauman A, Professed religious affiliation and the practice of euthanasia. J Med Ethics 1995;21(1): 49–54.

Euthanasia and Religion

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Euthanasia and Religion

Euthanasia is the inducement of a gentle and easy death. It is
considered to be a form of suicide. Yet the procedure requires the
assistance of a third party, due to the potential incapacity of the
individual requesting this procedure be carried out. The case could
then be turned into one of homicide. As a result of this, it is
incredibly difficult to find an individual who is willing to aid in
the conduct of euthanasia, as they could face prosecution in a
criminal court on the charge of murder.

Patients who request euthanasia are often motivated by terminal
illness. They appreciate that further medical treatments are unable to
cure, or deacelerate, the illness. They also wish to preserve their
dignity and conclude their painful suffering. Another example where a
patient may want to opt for euthanasia, is when health authorities
suggest they go into a hospice especially designed to cope with their
illness. A wish to maintain their independence, along with the desire
not to continue to be a burden on other family members, then becomes
the motivation.

Perspectives on the ethical issues are vastly variable on this topic,
across the social spectrum. An argument against the practice of
euthanasia, commonly starts with religion. The sixth commandment in
the Christian Bible states, 'Thou shalt not kill'. This implies that
the act would be committed with violence; a criminal act, where the
victim believes that they have a life worth living and would prefer
not to be killed. There would have been no comforting way to induce
death at the time when the Bible was written. Euthanasia however, is
mercy killing. A death where the recipient believes their life is not
worth living and they want an end to their suffering. Thanks to modern
medicines, the end of suffering can be carried out in a humane way.
Therefore to directly associate this commandment to euthanasia is
misleading and the text should rather read, 'Thou shalt not help to

A majority of the religious opposition to euthanasia comes from the

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Roman Catholic church. The Vatican's 1980 declaration on euthanasia
states, 'suffering has a special place in God's saving plan'. The Pope
also reiterated that Catholics "must obey or risk losing eternal
salvation". Dr Edmund Pellegrino is a devout Catholic and an authority
on medical ethics. He was quoted as claiming he, "could never carry
out a mercy killing because of his religion". Yet when reminded that
it was often Catholics who approved of war. Dr Pellegrino replied,
"that he was a lifelong pacifist". There appears to be a conflict
between one of his church's fundamental beliefs and his own personal

Opposition to euthanasia also comes from Muslim teachings; 'When their
time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour, nor can they bring
it forward by a single hour' (Qur'an 16.61), translated as, only Allah
can choose the length of life a person has. The Jewish faith also
holds very similar views. They preach of an injured King Saul,
ordering a young soldier to kill him after a battle, to avoid him
being captured alive. King David later had the soldier executed for
murder, stating that superior orders were valueless compared to those
of an individuals' conscience.

Three religions come close to the acceptance of euthanasia. The first
is Hinduism, which concentrates on the consequences of actions. Their
doctrines outline that euthanasia cannot be allowed, as it breaches
the teaching of ahimsa (doing harm). However, in contrast to this,
doing a good deed would be fulfilling a moral obligation. The second
is Buddhism. Buddhists believe the way a life ends, will influence
greatly the way the next life begins. The transition between an
existing life and the next depends on an individual's 'Karma' at the
point of death; however, there is no telling if the next life will be
an improvement from the last. When a Buddhist dies their state of mind
should be selfless, enlightened, free of anger, hate or fear. Buddha
himself demonstrated a tolerance of suicide and in the last century,
Buddhist monks practiced it as a political weapon, as a protest
against the Vietnam War. The Japanese Samurai culture is the third
tradition to play host to a form of euthanasia. Originally when a
warrior lost his battle, and was imminently going to face death from
the enemy, or was so badly wounded he could no longer be a useful
member of his society, they would opt for a mercy killing from a third
party. Today's Seppuku Ritual is carried out on the same basis. If an
individual believes that disease is bringing him imminent death, he
will self-inflict a serious stab wound. Once this has been achieved,
the third party will then behead him, to bring death about swiftly and
reduce the time of his suffering.

Most interpretations of the west's Christian Bible, concludes that the
gift of life given to us by 'God' is sacrosanct. As a result it is
only His decision when to terminate that life. However, the Bible also
believes that 'God' created animals, so therefore we ought to apply
the same rule to animals and indeed, to deny a swift, merciful death
to a suffering and terminally ill dog is a punishable offence,
according to law. Christians also argue that man is not an animal,
because he has an immortal soul, but if the human race is
significantly different from animals, surely this treatment should
better, if not the same. Currently there are strong movements in North
America, Western Europe and countries of the British Commonwealth, to
legalize the careful practise of euthanasia, if a dog's suffering can
be legally terminated, why not a man's?

These beliefs are mainly Christian and Jewish, but today's Britain is
primarily a secular society, with ever decreasing numbers of
worshippers' actually making efforts to attend church services.

It seems that today's churchgoers would rather take a 'pick and
choose' attitude about their faith and what element of it they follow.
Arguments against euthanasia from ancient texts, such as the Bible and
Koran, who believe that mercy killing should be legalised are not
convincing for the 29% of non believers in the United Kingdom.



DAVIES Jean Choice In Dying Ward Lock 1997 Religion and Ethics N/A 2004

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