Religious views on euthanasia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

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


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."[4]




The declaration on Euthanasia is the Roman Catholic Church's official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued as 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]


Protestant denominations 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.


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. [6]

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.


Islam categorically forbids all forms of suicide and any action that may help another to kill themselves.[7] [8] It is forbidden for a Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance.[9] The precedent for this comes from the Islamic Prophet Muhammad having refused to bless the body of a person who had committed suicide. If an individual is suffering from a terminal illness, it is permissible for the individual to refuse medication and/or resuscitation. Other examples include individuals suffering from kidney failure who refuse dialysis treatments and cancer patients who refuse chemotherapy.[citation needed]


Mahavira Varadhmana explicitly allows a sharavak (follower of Jainism) full consent to put an end to his or her life if the sharavak feels that such a stage is near that moksha can be achieved this way. Liberation from the cycles of lives being the primary objective in the religion.[citation needed]


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,[10] though there is some backing for voluntary passive euthanasia in limited circumstances.[11] Likewise, within the Conservative Judaism movement, there has been increasing support for passive euthanasia (PAD)[12] In Reform Judaism responsa, the preponderance of anti-euthanasia sentiment has shifted in recent years to increasing support for certain passive euthanasia options.[citation needed]

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.[13]


In Japan, where the dominant religion is Shinto, 69% of the religious organisations agree with the act of voluntary passive euthanasia.[14] 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.[14] 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.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Keown, 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. ^ a b c "Declaration on Euthanasia". Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 5 May 1980. 
  6. ^ "Religion & Ethics - Euthanasia". BBC. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  7. ^ Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 71. University of Southern California. Hadith 7.71.670. 
  8. ^ Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6485. 
  9. ^ Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6480. 
  10. ^ For example, J. David Bleich, Eliezer Waldenberg
  11. ^ Such as the writings of Daniel Sinclair, Moshe Tendler, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Moshe Feinstein
  12. ^ See Elliot Dorff and, for earlier speculation, Byron Sherwin.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b "9.3. Implications of Japanese religious views toward life and death in medicine". Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  15. ^ Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook - Page 24, Jennifer Fecio McDougall, Martha Gorman - 2008