PHILOSOPHICAL SERIES


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But more importantly, when it comes to the life of an innocent person, the weak, aged, and defenseless, the inviolability and the absolute value of life, become more glaring.

The church upholds that the inviolability nature of human life is a moral truth which is seen in the sacred scriptures, held by the tradition of the church and constantly proposed by the Magisterium.  In view of this, the deliberate decision to take away one’s life would always be considered morally evil. Therefore, euthanasia is morally evil, since it supports killing.

The Catholic Church also teaches that human life is a necessary value that everyone should cherish and appreciate in all conditions. It is the source of all other values and without it, no other value would be in existence. Daniel Callahan captures this point aptly when he says: “Since life is the fundamental and irreplaceable condition of the experience of all values, it is a basic or the basic value and must not be destroyed without grave reasons”.  Simply put, since life is the foundation of all other values, if it is destroyed, all other values are simultaneously destroyed too.  Stressing on this sacredness of human life, Pope John Paul II said:

“Man created by God, and called to share in his divine life, has always been at the center of the Christian vision of the world and that is why the church respects, and defends life…the only true rampart against the constant violations of man’s dignity and his rights is recognizing the sacred and inviolable nature of every human person”

4.2 EUTHANASIA USURPS GOD’S POWER

The central point in the Church’s argument against euthanasia rests on the fact that God is the sole author of life. He has dominion over our lives and only Him could determine its end.   Thus, the scripture says: “the lord’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and all its peoples” (Ps.24:1). And St. Thomas Aquinas would say: … life is God’s gift to man and is subject to His power, who kills and makes to live. Hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God, even as he who kills another’s slave, sins against that slave’s master, and as he who usurps (holds without right) to himself judgment of a matter not entrusted to him. For it belongs to God alone to pronounce sentence of death and life …

So, man’s dominion over his own life is that of stewardship, and hence, limited. The Catholic Church believes that Man’s life does not end here on earth. Man has an afterlife. Hence, in the end; man shall give to God, an account of the stewardship of his life. So, since God is the creator and master of human life, no one may take it without his authorization. So, to kill oneself or to get someone else to do it is to deny God of his right, and as well to usurp God’s power over our lives and his right to choose the length of our lives, and the way our lives end. Hence, Euthanasia is morally wrong. To this, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II says: “No one, however, can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone, in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)”

4.3 ARGUMENT FROM NATURAL LAW

The Catholic Church presents another argument against euthanasia in which it refers to the law of nature. This argument states that it is the natural prerogative of man to protect his life from dangers like death, prolong it and preserve it just like every other animal in the animal kingdom. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “it contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life”. (no.2281).

It is therefore a natural inclination of human beings to protect themselves. Euthanasia violates this natural goal, and it is hence morally wrong.

St. Thomas Aquinas is the chief proponent of this natural law argument, in the Catholic Church. He said… everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can. Wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature… Hence, suicide is always a mortal sin, as being contrary to the natural law

4.5 ARGUMENT FROM MEDICINE (THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH)

The Catholic Church also argues from the point of view of traditional ethics of medicine. The Hippocratic Oath forms the basis of the traditional ethics of medicine. In it we read about the principles of BENEFICENCE AND NON-MALEFICIENCE. Part of the Hippocratic Oath says:

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I suggest to this effect … In purity and holiness, I will guard my life and my art. Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice of all mischief… .

In the above quotation contains the two principles of BENEFICENCE (to act in the benefit of the patient; and that of NON-MALEFICIENCE (not to harm the patient in any way). So, the Medical profession has a moral obligation and right to save lives and protect it and not to perform actions which go against saving lives. Thus, the ethics of medicine consequently imposes on doctors the moral obligation to only perform services that help the patient. The role of doctors and other medical practitioners is to heal and save human lives as much as possible with all medical resources available.

Euthanasia then is against the traditional practice of medicine, since it harms the life of the patient. Physicians should always avoid harms or anything that threatens the benefit of the patient. Proponents of euthanasia may argue that it is in the best interest of the patient, but how can it be, since it takes the greatest good of the patient, which is life. The declaration of Geneva, among other things maintains the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception, and that the life of the patient must be the first consideration of the doctor. So, euthanasia is diametrically opposed to the office and obligations of the physician. The Pontifical Academy for life says …the legalization of euthanasia introduces a perverse moral reversal in the physician who, on account of his professional identity and its deontological requirements, is always called to support life and to alleviate pain, and never to cause death, “not even if moved by the anxious insistence of anyone” (Hippocratic Oath). Such an ethical conviction has remained generally intact down through the centuries, as the Declaration on Euthanasia of the W.H.O. confirms (39th Assembly, Madrid 1987). “Euthanasia, or the act of deliberately putting an end to a patient’s life, either at the request of the patient himself or at the request of his relatives, is immoral. This does not prevent the doctor from respecting the patient’s wish to let the natural process of death take its course in the final stage of an illness”.

More so, the church argues that there should be a high rate of trust and confidence reposed in the doctor by his patients. But on the contrary, euthanasia poses a big threat to this moral ideal of medical confidence and trust. People will not readily trust doctors again in their time of sickness because; the act of euthanasia might be carried on them without their consent.


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