Euthanasia : Ethical? or Execrable? — Part I
“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not… with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” —– Pope Benedict XVI
“My Ultimate aim is to make euthanasia as a positive experience.” —- Jack Kevorkian
Have you seen the movie “You Don’t Know Jack” starring Al Pacino? It’s about the life and work of Jack Kevorkian – called “Angle of Mercy” as well as “Doctor Death.” Kevorkian is an American pathologist who claims to have assisted at least 130 ‘physician-assisted suicide.’ Jack’s work and the word “Euthanasia” brings us a torrent of troubled feelings and challenges our spiritual consideration. Though the movie takes the side of Jack, it poses us some important questions: Should we allow a person to die to escape from the intolerable pain? Do doctors unnecessarily try to prolong life? Can one choose to end the sanctity of love? And, is it spiritually wrong to disrupt the dying process?
“Euthanasia” is derived from the Greek words “Eu” (good) and “Thantos” (death”). The conflict of interest in this subject was raised even in the Ancient-Greek culture. Plato and Socrates regarded painful disease to be a sufficient reason for stopping life through suicide, whereas Aristotle and Pythagarus’ views diverged. They argued that suicide was not courageous and an offense against the state. Still, the Magistrates in the city-states of Ancient Greece kept a bottle of poison for anyone who wished to die.
With the advent of Christianity, the viewpoint of Greeks and Romans waned. In Christianity and in many other religions, life is seen as gift of God. A rule against killing had its origin in the Christian view of the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The interest in Euthanasia didn’t recoil in the minds of people, because of religious beliefs. In USA and Europe, books on Euthanasia and Euthanasia societies existed for hundreds of years. Even, “Karl Marx” has talked about Euthanasia by criticizing physicians who treat diseases instead of patients.
However, the Euthanasia we are now talking about shouldn’t be confused with the Euthanasia movement, during Second World War, which was legalized by Hitler. The dictator and his physicians argued about the best ways to kill an “unworthy life”, “wasted” or “worthless” lives. It is said that the German school students of that period studied Math problems by calculating how much bread, jam, and other necessities of life could be saved by killing people — – who were a “drain on society.” These vile men might have named this as Euthanasia movement, but this was murder, purely and simply. The contemporary debate on “physically-assisted suicide” has nothing to do with Nazi’s, at the same time, this is a dreadful lesson for us to be wary of the power of the state and of involuntary killing.
How euthanasia is performed? What are the arguments made ‘for’ and ‘against’ this voluntarily assisted suicide? Let’s see in the next part.