Euthanasia

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by prinzT, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. prinzT

    prinzT New Member

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    Hello everyone,

    I am a high school student and as part of my subject Study of Religion, I am working on an assignment that requires me to investigate religious perspective on ethical issues. I am interested in learning more about the Anglican faith's perspective on the topic of euthanasia. As part of this task, it is important for me to conduct primary research, and therefore, I am writing in this forum to find answers to a few questions:

    - When exactly is the end of life?

    - How does euthanasia conflict with an Anglican's way of life? Is it the Anglican teachings and beliefs that influence adherents ethical decisions?

    - Is life considered valuable to Anglicans? If so, why?

    - Are there any circumstances where euthanasia be acceptable?

    - Is it considered evil to apply euthanasia to a terminally ill patient?

    It would be greatly appreciated if you would like to add more information regarding the stance of the Anglican Church on euthanasia. Thank you for spending your time answering these questions.
     
  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    When exactly is the end of life?
    When all life functions stop
    - How does euthanasia conflict with an Anglican's way of life? Is it the Anglican teachings and beliefs that influence adherents ethical decisions?
    In the ACNA we are pro life from birth till death.

    - Is life considered valuable to Anglicans? If so, why?
    Yes. We are made in the image of God so all life is Holy

    - Are there any circumstances where euthanasia be acceptable?
    No

    - Is it considered evil to apply euthanasia to a terminally ill patient?
    No

    The Episcopal Church might answer different but they are basically heretical now
     
  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    This question is disarmingly simple, yet it answer will ultimately be complex, a mystery, or ineffable. There is clearly a point in the process where a person may be clearly understood to be alive, and another point in the process where a person may clearly be understood to be dead. The measure between life and death however is not that easy. Is it breathing, heart function, brain activity, or something else? A friend of my mothers was on life support for 5 years and whilst the death certificate is dated for the day that life support was turned off, many of us suspect that she was dead for some time before that. So exactly I don't think we do know. We know that the shut down of life is a process, and for some it is compressed into all but and instant, and for others it is more drawn out.

    Yes, because life is a gift from God.

    This of course is a dangerous moral area, and the big questions must float around who makes decisions and their capacity to make decisions. I would be of the view that there may well be times where it is acceptable, but not easy, and I would think those cases should be very rare.

    Not necessarily. And the subtle distinction between active intervention and the withholding of treatment highlight this.

    In any case the best interests and the wishes and intentions of the patient are critical. If it is not done in love, careful and considered love, then it may well be problematical.
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    It is worth noting that the Anglican faith does not have a supreme body to set forth official dogmas on innumerable subjects, the way the Roman Catholic religion does. Thus we do not see a defining doctrine set down 'in stone' (as it were) on the subject of euthanasia. Anglicanism is rather broad in terms of what its members may believe on subjects that have not been definitively set forth by the Bible or the very early (first 5 centuries) church. I think it's possible that any answers on the subject will be somewhat subjective and based on the individuals who reply.

    When we read the commandment of God, which is usually translated into English as, "Thou shalt not kill," it's really telling us that we are not to commit murder. The Bible does not condemn all takings of human lives; quite the contrary, God commanded the taking of lives in many instances.

    The closest we come to a definitive statement might be the account of Samuel's death. in 2 Sam. 1, we read of an Amalekite who told David he'd come upon Saul, mortally wounded on the battlefield, and that King Saul asked the Amalekite to end his life, whereupon the Amalekite obliged him. When David was informed, he condemned the Amalekite to death for killing the man whom God had anointed king. Some may take the view that all such acts are morally wrong, while others might consider that the situation was unique in that the man killed had been specially anointed as leader of the nation. Even among the former, there may be folks who differentiate between killing a dying man and merely providing the medical means whereby the dying man may precipitate his own death (for example, by flipping a switch to begin a lethally high dose of pain killer via IV drip).

    I do not think that there is a monolithic viewpoint on euthanasia within Anglicanism, let alone an official promulgation of what our viewpoint is 'supposed to be.'
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not sure what the question is. Surely when the biological functions cease and the soul leaves the body, no?


    Euthanasia is a belief that human beings create life and end life. That contradicts the Anglican immemorial belief that it is God who gives and ends life.

    It's the most valuable thing in the known universe. Why, because those who have it are in the image of God Himself.

    No. The closest acceptable to it is if a person has a mortal condition, and the healing treatments are withheld, allowing the natural course to take place. In other words, we are not allowed to take life, but there is no moral obligation to continue life at all costs. If God has decided that a life should end, then we don't need to fight against it to extent it as long as scientifically possible.

    Yes. But it isn't evil to let the natural course take its place.

    In brief, euthanasia has never in the history of Anglicanism (approx. 1900 years) been considered acceptable.
     
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  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    There comes a time in the process or some diseases where we know the outcome, it is the timing that is problematic. Where those cases present appalling conditions for the patient for the little time they have left, it may be that euthanasia is simply helping natural course speed up a little. I am not for one moment suggesting that this is a early or an easy decision, but at a time when all dignity and hope are gone and all that is left is pain and suffering, one asks what will love do?

    Your answer appears to differentiate between withholding treatment and an intervention in the process or dying. Is there a difference in an ethical sense between acts of mercy of omission and acts of mercy of commission? I guess I have to ask what is the kindest way to be kind?

    Psalm 85:9-10
    For his salvation is nigh them that fear him *
    that glory may dwell in our land.

    Mercy and truth are met together *
    righteousness and peace have kissed each other.​

    Life is fundamentally a gift from God, and we ought cherish it in ourselves and in others. The question is what do you do when the only miracle is death.

    The ancient Prayer of Commendation (proficiscere, anima christiana, de hoc mundo) I still find helpful.

    Go forth upon your journey from this world, O Christian soul;
    in the name of God the Father who created you. Amen.
    In the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for you. Amen.
    In the name of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you. Amen.
    In communion with all the blessèd saints;
    with the angels and archangels and all the heavenly host. Amen.
    May your portion this day be in peace
    and your dwelling in the city of God. Amen.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    We need to be careful to distinguish being pro-life, and being pro-kindness, because the two are not the same thing. Ethical principles do not revolve around 'being kind' in any way. When we advocate against euthanasia, it is not out of trying to 'be kind', but because stopping a life of a human being is objectively immoral. It's not a matter of feelings. Let's remember that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' and there have been many evil people who did evil things from the sincere conviction that they were helping people with it. Hitler was very much trying to be kind to the Germans in exterminating the Jews. The communists were trying to be kind to the peasants in executing everyone above poverty levels. Being kind is an extremely dangerous principle, and has not been admitted in Christian ethics.
     
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  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I think where Botolph may have erred in his wording was when he used the word "kind" instead of "loving." We are counseled to love one another, of course. One could picture a situation in which a person is suffering immensely, no medical treatment is able to provide relief from the suffering, and the medical prognosis is terminal with a projected duration of 1-2 weeks. Moreover, the patient is a professing Christian who is at peace with his Maker and with the transition called 'death.' In such a circumstance, what is the loving thing to do? If the patient were your spouse, parent, or child, would that affect your answer?

    I would also like to point out that the statement, "stopping a life of a human being is objectively immoral," is an overly broad statement because it is not always true. One example is killing in self defense. Another might be capital punishment.
     
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  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Yet kindness does remain one of the fruits of the Spirit.
     
  10. Thomas Didymus

    Thomas Didymus Member

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    Perhaps it would be helpful if we distinguish "kindness" from "niceness". The latter (niceness) being a socially friendly gesture or custom, while the former (kindness) implies the giving of something valuable at the personal cost of the giver, a sacrifice, to the gifted. Kindness is unconditional.
     
  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No it isn't though. You may mean 'caritas', which is typically translated as 'charity' or 'love'. And if so yes that's maybe the biggest fruit of the spirit, but 'love' and 'niceness' are two very different things. One's highest expression of love for someone can sometimes be an absolute lack of niceness to them.

    You may be confusing the postmodern late-Western secular feeling of 'not offending anyone' with the actual and genuine Christian virtues, among which 'caritas' stands preeminent.

    More fittingly to this thread, it may be a 'nice' secular thing for us to euthanize/kill someone going through pain, or have them kill themselves; but it wouldn't accord with 'love' as a Christian virtue, because Christian virtues exist within a Christian worldview. A Christian can only act in accord with God. It is illogical to enact a Christian virtue that goes against God, and thus Christian 'love' will never lead to euthanasia. However an atheist/secular 'niceness' often does lead to killing/euthanasia, as we are seeing in various countries.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  12. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The Fruit of the Spirit
    By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
    Galatians 5:22-25

    Ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη, χαρά, εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία, χρηστότης, ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις, πραΰτης, ἐγκράτεια: κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος. οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις. εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν.​

    chrestotes is generally understood as 'moral goodness, integrity, benignity, kindness' and the KJV rendered it as goodness, yet I think most contemporary translations render it as kindness.

    Love (caritas) does stand out large, and chrestotes is undoubtedly related to it. In all honesty I do not regard any part of the process of the final stages of a terminal disease such as cancer as 'nice'. If you look at my posts, and no #6 in particular you will see that I wrote: I am not for one moment suggesting that this is a early or an easy decision, but at a time when all dignity and hope are gone and all that is left is pain and suffering, one asks what will love do?

    On that occasion I clearly meant and intended caritas. It is uncharitable to suggest that 'I am enacting a Christian virtue that goes against God'. I believe I have made it plain that the default position is to cherish the gift of life. In a perfect world (not the one we live in) one might be able to say that bringing about the cessation of life is always wrong. The decisions in terms of euthanasia must clearly be with an abundance of caution, not based on economics, and hopefully grounded in love and charity.

    @Rexlion has clearly observed that there is some limitations to the prohibition on bringing about the cessation of life, though I am not sure that those are the arguments for kindness or charity.

    When my own Father was dying as a result of bowel cancer, the matter of euthanasia was in our minds as a family. There were a couple of times during the process (which took 2 years) where we wondered. Ultimately he got up from TV at home, and popped into bed while Mum made a cup of tea, and came in to find him dead.

    When my Mother died, she had been rushed to Hospital have collapsed in the Post Office (the hospital was an hour away) and as she was being wheeled into hospital she was declaring, repeatedly, 'do not resuscitate'. I was the enduring guardian, and after consultation with the doctor, it was clear that she needed to be moved to a big hospital (2 hours away) and to do that she would need to be stabilised which would take 4 to 6 hours, and he believed she would be dead in three. I asked him to make her last hours as comfortable and pain free as possible, She was able in her last hour to speak to every one of her 4 children, two in person and 2 by phone (we were 8 hours away) and she died. Following the autopsy it was ascertained that she had suffered an aortic conclusion (simply the aorta had become detached from the heart, which is generally considered and end of life event)

    On both these occasions the primary concern was for the other, not for ourselves. In post #2 I mentioned the events that probably accounted for my Mothers declaration on arrival in hospital, which really was a case where medical intervention had become very unkind, albeit unintentionally.

    My position is
    1. Life is a gift from God and to be cherished.
    2. The preservation of life is the default position.
    3. Life here on earth is not forever, but for our allotted span.
    4. Physical Death is not the failure of medicine, but rather part of our lived experience.
    5. There are times when the withholding of medical intervention may be sensible, intelligent, loving and kind.
    6. There are times (much fewer in number I suspect) where medical intervention to hasten the cessation of life might be loving and kind.
    The danger is that when we act like God, in whose hands is the gift of life, we will make mistakes, we might mistake niceness for kindness, so in these things we ought not be hasty, though sometime haste is all we have.
     
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  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I am wondering, have any of you read early church writings that speak specifically to the subject of euthanasia? (I never have.) If so, this would be a splendid place to post a few quotes.
     
  14. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I am certainly not aware of any such literature.

    The timeline here may be of some assistance. https://euthanasia.procon.org/historical-timeline/

    It is not all pleasant reading. There is a significant gap between 5th century BC Greece and 12th century AD Europe and Thomas Aquinas, who in reality does not directly address the question either.

    Please note I am not a great advocate of Euthanasia, and at the same time I am not a hard-line opponent. I regard it as a complex and difficult subject with few easy answers. A friend of mine who is a hospital chaplain, attended a ward in the hospital recently where the patient was clearly at the end, and the daughter said to him, 'Father, we need a miracle', and he replied, gently, 'of course, death may be that miracle'.

    History is fascinating. as I was re-reading this thread I realised that the Church for some period of it's history was prepared to burn, drown, or otherwise bring about the cessation of life to many heretics, as an act of love. Now in this circumstance where it might well be argued that there is a case for it being an act of love, we find intense opposition because all life is sacred.

    The one thing I do believe is that thinking and action in this area is profoundly difficult.
     
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  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Like you, Botolph, I am neither an advocate nor an opponent. I'm hoping that someone here has done the 'heavy lifting' of research and can cite the best evidence for the proposition that the church has 'always' considered euthanasia wrong (and, thus, a sin). The things I have read seem to be circumstantial evidence at best, but surely there is much I have not read on the subject.
     
  16. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It's pretty simple. What is euthanasia: "a benevolent manslaughter of a human being".

    Correct?

    If correct, then there's 0, zero testimony in the last 4000 years of Christian history for anything like that abomination. Also being a huge fan of the Greek/Latin classics and I struggle with trying to find even one allowance of that even there in non-Christian history. It's a purely modernist abomination.
     
  17. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    But is it?

    Is it not also possible/likely that that was one of the things which we did not need to speak about. We now of course live in a tell all generation. Life expectancy in that past century has increased significantly (quite possibly by more than 30%) due to a number of factors, better medicine and surgical procedures, better emergency and recovery performance, better nutrition, safer workplaces, etc etc etc. One of the reasons for the increase in many diseases including cancer, may well be that we are now getting old enough to catch them.

    I get where you are coming from, and if I could believe it was just black and white, then I would want to agree with you completely. The purpose of medicine is the preservation of health and wholeness. There comes a time in the process for some cases where it is evident that medicine is perpetuating existence. Now that is entirely appropriate whilst there is some hope of recovery, but when that hope is extinguished, when the heartbeat is artificial, when the only breath is a heart lung machine, what do we do. The withdrawal of life support - which I think you support - seems right.

    There is a very fine line between withdrawal of life support, and active intervention facilitating death. Sometimes it seems we are kinder to our pets than we are to our fellow humans.

    We know that the Eskimo people would allow the frail old to sleep outside the igloo. In some part of Melanesia old sick folk would paddle out in their own canoe fishing at night. The lack of literature in the classic tradition is not a sufficient argument for me.

    I suspect 'of a human being' is redundant.
     
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    So the reasoning goes like this(?): they didn't write statements condoning it, therefore it must be forbidden. :hmm:Hmmm.
     
  19. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It's been forbidden, as a simple case of manslaughter. It's against the ten commandments, thou shalt not murder. Euthanasia is not some other case or some new scenario, it's basically murder. There's nothing new or modern about it.
     
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  20. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    It is intentional killing even if done in mercy. How is this any different than abortion to make life easier for the mother or for a disabled child?