In this section, we explore Christian views on euthanasia and focus upon the key issues of value, fear and autonomy. Below you will find our Live and Let Live booklet summarising what the Bible has to say about euthanasia - hard copies are free to order at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Beneath there is a Biblical Discussion on end of life issues available to download, which we hope will be useful in digging deeper and studying key Bible passages.
Live and Let Live Booklet
This Live and Let Live booklet by Dr. Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, explores what the Bible has to say about euthanasia and assisted suicide:
You can request free copies of this booklet from our office by emailing email@example.com or telephoning 020 7233 0455.
An In-depth Biblical Discussion for End of Life Issues
This booklet is written by Chris Buttenshaw, a member of CARE's Public Affairs team. It gives an in-depth Biblical discussion of suffering, life and death in the context of faith in a sovereign God who is supremely in control, whose love and attention does not waiver according to circumstances (Psalm 136) and whose ways are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9; Job 36:26).
You can download free copies of this resourcehere.
There are a variety of religious views on euthanasia. CARE breaks down the Christian views on euthanasia below:
Pressure for the liberalisation of the law on euthanasia has grown considerably in recent years. In some ways this is odd given that palliative care has actually developed by leaps and bounds such that most pain can now be managed and controlled. When one presses those who champion euthanasia or assisted dying, however, and highlight the fact that it is now more not less easy to manage pain, they make it plain that their fundamental objective is not concerned with pain but rather with a very individualistic, philosophical commitment to human autonomy and the belief that if I am sick and want to end my life I should have the freedom to do so via euthanasia or assisted dying.
From a Christian perspective, liberalising the law on euthanasia would be hugely problematic for at least three reasons:
- Human life bears God’s image and it is not for us to terminate.
- According to the Christian worldview we are part of community joined to each other. We are not autonomous. The decisions we make impact other people.
- If the law was changed there would be a great risk that people would feel pressured into accessing assisted suicide or euthanasia. At present if you are a burden on your family and the state and have a sensitive conscience you don’t need to feel guilty about being a burden in the sense that there is nothing you can do about it. If assisted suicide or euthanasia became available, though, then there would be a mechanism sanctified with legal approval, that you could take.
Rather than liberalising the law on assisted suicide we should invest more in palliative care. At present the level of provision remains inconsistent due to lack of funding.
Exploring the key issues in the euthanasia debate
Theologian Rev John Stott notes that there appears to be three basic issues in the euthanasia debate:
- Value – What value has a human life?
- Fear – What are the main fears which euthanasia is intended to relieve?
- Autonomy – What right do we have over our own life?
It is the belief of many contemporary non-Christian writers that there is no inherent absolute or intrinsic value to human life. On the other hand there are still some non-Christian scholars such as Professor Dworkin who still recognise and support an intrinsic importance and value to human life. Dworkin develops a view of human ‘value’ based upon ‘best interests’. He draws a distinction between: Experiential interests – what causes pleasure or pain. Critical interests – what gives life meaning. In many respects this kind of viewpoint is an attempt to create a secular understanding of human value. Alternatively, the Christian worldview understands the fact that we have intrinsic value because God has created us in his own image. Human beings are godlike beings, possessing a range of faculties (rational, moral and social) which distinguishes us from animals. In particular, there is the capacity for us to establish and maintain relationships of love because we are made in the image of God, who is love.
One of the strongest incentives of those campaigning for euthanasia is that they are fearful of seeing those they love enduring a horrid, distressing and lingering death. The question of fear could be broken down further into three distinct areas:
- Fear of uncontrollable and unbearable pain.
- Fear of indignity – the fear of being subjected to the dehumanizing effect of modern medical technology resulting in a multitude of tubes and wires running in and out of the body.
- Fear of dependence – we want to avoid the humiliation of total helplessness by taking control and dictating what happens to us at every stage of the process.
A further fear that could be added to this list. It is probably more likely to be exhibited more by those facing the prospect of death as opposed to euthanasia advocates. It is the fear that their doctor may well become their killer.
Advocates of euthanasia passionately believe that all human beings (provided that they are rational and competent) have the right and should be able to exercise that right to make their own decision as to how they want to dispose of their own life. No other individual or institution should have the power to infer or circumvent this right. However as John Donne said, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; everyone is a continent, a part of the main.’ The fact is that when an individual decides to take his or her own life it has a profound and unavoidable effect on the lives of those around them. That same individual exerting their right to autonomy has removed the same right from the survivors.
Conclusion: Christian views on Euthanasia
There are a number of religious views on euthanasia, but from a biblical perspective, God has made us rational and volitional beings. As such we have a God-give mind and will through which we are to live our lives by choice and not coercion. We are accountable to God for our decisions. Whilst choice is good, we need to qualify it with an understanding and appreciation of freedom, dependence and life.
There are many religious views on euthanasia, although many moral theologians are critical of the procedure.
Main article: Buddhism and euthanasia
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. 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." 
In Theravada Buddhism a lay person daily recites the simple formula: "I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings." 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."
The Declaration on Euthanasia is the Church's official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980.
Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a "crime against life" and a "crime against God". 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. It has been argued that these are relatively recent positions, but whatever the position of individual Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church's viewpoint is unequivocal.
Protestantdenominations 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.however they are leaner then the Roman Catholic Church
Christians in support of euthanasia
Groups claiming to speak for Christians rather than the official viewpoints of the Christian clergy have sprung up in a number of countries.
See also: Prayopavesa
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.
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.
Muslims are against euthanasia.They believe that all humans life is sacred because it is given by God, and that God chooses how long each person lives. Human beings should not interfere in this. It is forbidden for a Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance.
Main article: Sallekhana
Jainism is based on the principle of non-violence (ahinsa) and is best known for it. Jainism recommends voluntary death or sallekhana for both ascetics and srāvaka (householders) at the end of their life.Sallekhana (also known as Santhara, Samadhi-marana) is made up of two words sal (meaning 'properly') and lekhana, which means to thin out. Properly thinning out of the passions and the body is sallekhana. A person is allowed to fast unto death or take the vow of sallekhana only when certain requirements are fulfilled. It is not considered suicide as the person observing it, must be in a state of full consciousness. When observing sallekhana, one must not have the desire to live or desire to die. Practitioner shouldn't recollect the pleasures enjoyed or, long for the enjoyment of pleasures in the future. The process is still controversial in parts of India. Estimates for death by this means range from 100 to 240 a year. Preventing santhara invites social ostracism.
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, though there is some backing for voluntary passive euthanasia in limited circumstances. Likewise, within the Conservative Judaism movement, there has been increasing support for passive euthanasia (PAD) In Reform Judaismresponsa, the preponderance of anti-euthanasia sentiment has shifted in recent years to increasing support for certain passive euthanasia options. Secular Judaism is a separate category with increasing support for euthanasia. A popular sympathiser for euthanasia is Rabbi Miriam Jerris.
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.
In Japan, where the dominant religion is Shinto, 69% of the religious organisations agree with the act of voluntary passive euthanasia. 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. Views on active euthanasia are mixed, with 25% Shinto and Buddhist organisations in Japan supporting voluntary active euthanasia.
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.
Influence of religious views
Religious views on euthanasia are both varied and complicated. While one's view on the matter doesn't necessarily connect directly to their religion, it often impacts a person's opinion. While the influence of religion on one's views toward palliative care do make a difference, they often play a smaller role than one may think. An analysis of the connection between the religion of US adults and their view on euthanasia was done in order to see how they combine. The findings concluded that the religious affiliation one associates with does not necessarily connect with their stance on euthanasia.  Research shows that while many belong to a specific religion, they may not always see every aspect as relevant to them.
Some metadata analysis has supported the hypothesis that nurses’ attitudes towards euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are influenced by religion and world view. Attributing more importance to religion also seems to make agreement with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide less likely. A 1995 study of public opinion found that the tendency to see a distinction between active euthanasia and suicide was clearly affected by religious affiliation and education. In Australia, more doctors without formal religious affiliation were sympathetic to active voluntary euthanasia, and acknowledged that they had practised it, than were doctors who gave any religious affiliation. Of those identifying with a religion, those who reported a Protestant affiliation were intermediate in their attitudes and practices between the agnostic/atheist and the Catholic groups. Catholics recorded attitudes most opposed, but even so, 18 per cent of Catholic medical respondents who had been so requested, recorded that they had taken active steps to bring about the death of patients.
- Kakar, Sudhir (2014), "A Jain Tradition of Liberating the Soul by Fasting Oneself", Death and Dying, Penguin UK, ISBN 9789351187974
- Jain, Vijay K. (2011), Acharya Umasvami's Tattvârthsûtra, Vikalp Printers, ISBN 978-81-903639-2-1,
- ^ abKeown, Damien. “End of life: the Buddhist View,” Lancet 366 (2005): 953. SocINDEX with full text, EBSCOhost.
- ^Keown, Damien. “End of life: the Buddhist View,” Lancet 366 (2005): 954. SocINDEX with full text, EBSCOhost.
- ^This is the first of the Five Precepts. It has various interpretations.
- ^Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1994). Buddhist Monastic Code I: Chapter 4, Parajika. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- ^ abc"Declaration on Euthanasia". Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 5 May 1980.
- ^McDougall H, It's popularly believed that Catholics are anti-euthanasia. Do Catholics believe we don't have the freedom to do as we like? The Guardian 27 August 2009
- ^Catechism of the Catholic Church
- ^In Australia: http://www.christiansforve.org.au/
- ^"Religion & Ethics - Euthanasia". BBC. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- ^Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 71. University of Southern California. Hadith 7.71.670.
- ^Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6485.
- ^Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35. University of Southern California. Hadith 35.6480.
- ^"Fasting to Death" in: Docker C, Five Last Acts – The Exit Path, 2013:428-432 (details benefits and difficulties)
- ^Colors of Truth Religion, Self and Emotions: Perspectives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Sikhism and Contemporary Psychology by Sonali Bhatt Marwaha, 2006:125.
- ^For example, J. David Bleich, Eliezer Waldenberg
- ^Such as the writings of Daniel Sinclair, Moshe Tendler, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Moshe Feinstein
- ^See Elliot Dorff and, for earlier speculation, Byron Sherwin.
- ^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.
- ^ ab"9.3. Implications of Japanese religious views toward life and death in medicine". www.eubios.info. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- ^Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook - Page 24, Jennifer Fecio McDougall, Martha Gorman - 2008
- ^Moulton, Benjamin E., Terrence D. Hill, and Amy Burdette. "Religion and Trends in Euthanasia Attitudes among U.S. Adults, 1977–2004." Sociological Forum 21.2 (2006): 249-72. Web.
- ^Religion and Nurses’ Attitudes to Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, Nursing Ethics 2009. The subject is also dealt with at length in Johannes A. van der Ven, Hans-Georg Ziebertz (eds.) Human Rights and the Impact of Religion, Koninklijke 2013.
- ^Caddell D, Newton R, Euthanasia: American attitudes toward the physician's role. Soc Sci Med. 1995 Jun;40(12):1671-81.
- ^Baume P, O'Malley E, Bauman A, Professed religious affiliation and the practice of euthanasia. J Med Ethics 1995;21(1): 49–54.