Death and Dying
The case study is focused on George, who suffers from fatal disease. He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and would leave the world in about four years. The man would lose basic abilities, such as moving and speaking. Losses of power and dignity have forced George to think of voluntary euthanasia. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the feasibility of this idea from two perspectives. Drawing on primary and secondary sources on attitudes of Christianity and Buddhism, the pros and cons of euthanasia were assessed. The possible plans for George were discussed. The research demonstrates that neither Christianity nor Buddhism have a direct answer concerning the voluntary ending of life. However, accepting the disease and denying the ideas about euthanasia is the wisest decision. George should accept the care of his family and use the illness for his spiritual development. Besides, the person should allow his family to enhance their compassion and wisdom.
Keywords: euthanasia, Christianity, Buddhism
Case Study on Death and Dying
Today, euthanasia for severe diseases is a controversial question. On the one hand, it helps the patient avoid suffering and financial losses. On the other hand, it contradicts some religious values. Particularly, euthanasia might be considered murder, which could not be justified. In addition, sufferings are normally given due to some reasons. Escaping from pain is like escaping from life exams. Therefore, this case study will analyze the options of the man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He is afraid of losing control and thinks about ending his life. The possible solutions would be viewed from the worldviews of Christianity and Buddhism. Nevertheless, George should deny the idea about voluntary euthanasia because Christianity and Buddhism do not justify this approach of taking one’s own life.
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Comparative Analysis of Worldviews
In Christianity, the prime reality is God, who made and sustained everything in the universe. The surrounding world is good and real but God has separated Himself from it. People have self-consciousness and intellect. Besides, they are able to make choices about different things and take moral responsibility for their actions, words, and thoughts. God wants one to learn to love others. Death does not exist. Human bodies will be resurrected like the body of Christ. Nonetheless, this transformation will happen in Christ’s next coming. God gave people intelligence, which could be used for understanding the nature of reality. However, moral perversity prevents human beings from proper understanding. Therefore, God, Himself reveals the truth to those, who deserve it. God created people with the same moral qualities as He has, but humans, do not use their freedom of choice properly and frequently make wrong decisions. The Bible helps to determine if the actions are right or wrong. God revealed Himself and His purposes to selected personalities. Human history had its beginning and will have its culmination; particularly, the second coming of Christ will become the climax of history. He will judge humans and will create a new world where people will be able to live in heaven.
As for Buddhism, their prime reality is the same as in Christianity. Everybody shares one essence, which is called “Nirvana”. The world around is unreal. It resembles some kind of fantasy. However, only “realized soul” normally can understand the unreality and usefulness of the world. Escaping from it is considered a rescue. All human beings are one with the Creator. The individual personality is unrivaled. Humans do not actually die. Depending on their behavior, they are reborn many times in several forms. The process of reincarnation lasts until the person reaches enlightenment and gets ready for going to Nirvana. Human beings can know the truth through escaping from the world and looking inside of themselves. Buddhists believe that it is impossible to get to know the Ultimate. Besides, they say that there are no standards of right or wrong because these are two components of the same whole. Since there is a cycle of rebirth, the meaning of history is insignificant.
George’s disease could be explained by his sins. According to the Bible, human beings suffer because they commit sins and do not confess in doing them (Genesis 3:14-19 NIV). The case study does not contain information about the sins George. However, the person in his mid-fifties definitely has some. In addition, the man does not seem to attend a church and have regular confessions. The loss of ability and move is a great motivation to think about life and analyze all the actions performed. Nowadays, the person has many obligations and limited time for himself. He is an attorney and a teacher. Besides, the individual is a coach of the basketball team. Therefore, the disease is a time for contemplating his own sins and confessing.
The value of the man’s life as a person is considerable. Thus, he is able to serve people and give love to them (Shelly & Miller, 2006). As an attorney, George can help others in dealing with legal issues. As a teacher, he can raise public awareness of the law. Coaching of the son’s team allows George to develop children. Consequently, the man is able to offer love and assistance in numerous ways. Hence, this fact makes him highly valuable from the Christian perspective. On the other hand, the value of George’s life with the disease is also significant. Firstly, his family can learn to be sympathetic and loving. Secondly, George can improve his spiritual qualities, which are necessary for having a better life after death. For example, he may believe in God more seriously and start praying. Besides, the man may learn to become modest, which might even lead to enlightenment. Therefore, George has value in both situations but he is more useful for others without ALS.
Christianity does not tell anything about euthanasia directly. However, there are numerous indirect arguments that religion is against God’s will. Primarily, God created people in His likeness (Job 33:4 NIV). Thus, only He can decide when the person is ready to leave the world. Additionally, one faces suffering and illnesses for some spiritual reasons so that euthanasia is like escaping from the learning process. Moreover, Christianity is against murder. The health provider who will administer medicine for stopping the life will become the murderer of the patient. Therefore, euthanasia contradicts the Christian values about the decisive role of God and the prohibition of killing.
From the Christian point of view, George should refuse to end his life through euthanasia. Instead, he should spend his last years analyzing his life. The focus should be on the search of sins and confessing in them. Besides, he needs to allow his family members to develop their spiritual qualities through serving him. Instead of fighting against injustice, George should learn to be thankful to God for the disease and sufferings. God knows better what each person needs for their own spiritual development and enlightenment. In addition, even the Bible introduces many cases when people with severe illnesses experience healing and forgiveness after admitting their sins and asking God for help. Hence, George has to accept the situation and rely on God.
Since Buddhists believe in reincarnation, it is possible to explain the disease and sufferings of George by wrong actions in previous lives. In this life, he has to suffer in order to expiate the faults made earlier. In addition, ailments and dying belong to eight sufferings, which human beings have to experience during their life. Apart from these two, people have to deal with birth, aging, losing loved ones, connection with humans they do not like, unmet wishes, and pain due to the aggregates (Bodhi, 2012). Therefore, the family of George might also need his sufferings to reach progress in spiritual development. Particularly, they might experience the loss of the nearest and dearest as well as broken dreams. Hence, such sufferings are necessary for the spiritual development of George and his family.
The value of George’s life as a person is considerable. Thus, he works not only on cleaning of his karma but also for the sake of the karma of many other people. Firstly, he helps his clients to avoid problems with the law. Secondly, George educates university students, which is helpful for their spiritual and personal growth. Thirdly, the man improves the karma of the peers of his son through coaching. Children share many positive moments together. Instead of wasting time on aggression or surfing the Internet, they learn to interact with others and train their bodies. At the same time, George’s life with the disease is also valuable. Hence, it is important for Buddhists to develop their compassion and wisdom. George’s health is ideal for this process. For instance, the manВ’s family members can enhance their compassion while care for him. Moreover, the gradual deteriorating of George’s health condition is also a good lesson for them because their emotions might evolve. Besides, they might become wiser through analyzing the reasons of George’s sufferings. The man may become the example for his son through demonstrating dignity and courage while facing pain.
Buddhism also does not offer a clear answer about euthanasia. However, it states that people have made their destiny through their past karmas. Although it might be painful to watch how the loved ones suffer, but this will teach others to be responsible for their thoughts, actions and feelings. Furthermore, if the person ends their life, he/she will have worse sufferings in the next life. Therefore, euthanasia is not a solution. It is only the delay of sufferings. On the other hand, relatives and healthcare providers can demonstrate compassion through offering good painkillers and supporting the individual until death. In addition, the inability to move might encourage George to look inside and search for the truth there. Another argument is that Buddhism is against murder. However, Dalai Lama says one should take into account each particular situation. In some cases, abortion and euthanasia of a person with long-term coma are acceptable (Cobb, Puchalski, & Rumbold, 2012). Consequently, the decision concerning euthanasia depends on circumstances and the patient’s attitude to his/her own karma.
According to Buddhism, George’s commitment to resort to euthanasia would be justified because he would be obliged to deal with severe health conditions. He will lose the ability to talk, make movements, consume food, and breathe. George will need to use a wheelchair for moving and a ventilator for breathing. In addition, there is no cure for ALS. Patients with this disease usually live about four years. Therefore, there are not many chances for recovery. The decision to live with ALS will be also justified because it will reduce the distance to Nirvana. Hence, both options can be morally justified under religion.
Personal View and Recommendations
The best option for George is to refuse the idea of euthanasia. Firstly, some of the patients with ALS live more than ten years. Thus, the man has a chance to spend more time with the family. It is particularly important for his son, who needs the fatherВ’s support for the development. In addition, healthcare professionals provide treatment to reduce suffering and extend life. Scientists are still working on the cure for ALS so that the treatment of the disease might be discovered over time (Chad et al., 2013, p. 62). Secondly, George would save some of the abilities so that he could interact with the world. Thus, he would be able to see and hear the world around him. Even these two abilities allow learning many things. For example, George would be able to read or hear the Bible and prayers. Besides, he would feel his loved ones and even taste the dishes they prepared for him. George would also detect various smells. Caring for his own health would accelerate the journey to wholeness (Greenwood & Delgado, 2013, p. 941). In other words, the man would be able to better perceive the surrounding world and know more about himself due to spending more time for meditations. George is not right in saying that dependence is totally bad. In fact, it is positive for spiritual development because it motivates to pray to God and helps to understand personal weaknesses. Normally, people start to pray and confess their sins when they fail to reach something on their own. Besides, George would provide job opportunities to others because his family would need to hire someone to care about him. Keeping a high quality of life would help to reduce the risks of depression, which is so common for patients with ALS (Pizzimeti et al., 2013). Therefore, life with ALS has some benefits, and George should not deny them.