This is my first round teaching an ethics class at the school that I work at. I’m enjoying the learning process as one who has been given a curriculum to implement. The more I dig into the textbook the more I find that I am growing in my understanding of ethics.
The issue of euthanasia is one that Christ followers must not be quiet about. Interestingly, I am not teaching a class from a religious perspective but from a philosophical one. Therefore, it gets a bit more difficult to come to my conclusions in a way that only utilizes experience and reason. Even so, we are constantly reminding ourselves in class that religious persuasions, whatever a specific tradition may or may not be, always influence our approach to ethical issues, even if we try and remove such from the equation.
Euthanasia then, is an issue with much relevance to modern society. Most people remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He is credited with assisting 100 suicides. He was charged of three of these, but was found not guilty in a court of law each time. The reason the jury could not render a guilty verdict was that he was simply providing the “means” for someone to choose to kill themselves, but was not actually doing any of the actions himself. He eventually was convicted of second-degree murder when he actually placed the IV in one of his patients who wanted to die. This patient was videotaped, and was suffering from a terminal disease.
The case of Dr. Jack Kevorkian is called “active euthanasia” as opposed to what some would call “passive euthanasia.” “Active” means that elements are being added to the equation to allow for the termination of life. “Passive” means withholding things that would preserve life. An example of passive euthanasia might be a terminally ill patient who refuses various available measures to fight off the disease. And yes, I realize that I am being very narrow and simplified with these terms.
There is much more that we could talk about when referencing euthanasia in modern culture. Several court cases have upheld various forms of active euthanasia in this country. And to my knowledge, the state of Oregon has laws in place that allow for certain forms of this practice (Forgive me if I am wrong here, please let me know the relevant info). Ultimately, we have encountered both of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Terry Schrivo’s cases in popular culture which push us emotionally to discern the ethics of this practice and its morality.
To be clear: I am prolife. I believe that life begins in the womb and that life ought to be preserved from the womb until the two. Certainly I also can see areas of gray that we must not dance around. So this is why I bring this issue to you.
What is the role of Christians in the euthanasia discussion? Can we be pro-life and also see certain cases as having gray areas? What are your personal experiences with the issue of euthanasia? What other thoughts do you have on this issue?