Monday, November 19, 2012

Euthanasia

Compromise is generally acknowledged as important in order to make ground on politics and policy. Unfortunately, there are a few dichotomous situations where a person can only be in one state or another. With the exception of Schroedinger's cat and a patient in an unrecoverable coma, a person can only be alive or dead. We can safely assume that a compromise on being alive or dead does not involve putting patients into an unrecoverable coma. "You're going to live...sort of."

Every situation is different and needs to be evaluated with the best clinical knowledge of options for both the patient, the family, and the doctor. I don't think that patients should feel pressured to extend their life by means that are unreasonable, but I also believe that legal suicide creates a host of problems that society may be technologically advanced enough to face, but not necessarily ethically ready to consider. For that reason, I think it ought to be okay for a patient and the healthcare team to jointly decide to withhold treatments when death is near, but hastening death by administering a lethal dose ought to be avoided. The distinction may be blurry, but the real difference is one of actively engaging in a death act versus passively accepting death as it comes. You could say that the difference is insignificant because both methods hasten death, but I believe that the way we leave this life is important too.

My beliefs about matters of life, death, and suffering have been enhanced by the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the core of 'Mormonism' is the idea of working at self-improvement, striving to become better in all aspects of our lives. This is so important to Mormons because we believe that our existence does not end at death and also that death does not do much to change our personality, attitude, skills, or knowledge, but (aside from the point but for the sake of completion) does change the constraints under which our physical body operates. With that understanding the following quotes address how Christians approach the question of euthanasia.

Orson F. Whitney said “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father . . . in heaven.”

The Church Handbook of Instructions has this to say:


Prolonging Life

When severe illness strikes, members should exercise faith in the Lord and seek competent medical assistance. However, when dying becomes inevitable, it should be seen as a blessing and a purposeful part of eternal existence. Members should not feel obligated to extend mortal life by means that are unreasonable. These judgments are best made by family members after receiving wise and competent medical advice and seeking divine guidance through fasting and prayer.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is defined as deliberately putting to death a person who is suffering from an incurable condition or disease. A person who participates in euthanasia, including assisting someone to commit suicide, violates the commandments of God.

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