PHI 413 Assignment Case Study on Death and Dying
Euthanasia refers to the termination of a very sick person’s life to relieve them of their pain and suffering. Persons who undergo euthanasia have an incurable disease, but there are situations where some individuals want their life to be terminated. The topic of euthanasia has been at the core of very heated debates over the years and is surrounded by practical, ethical, and religious considerations (Paterson, 2017). Euthanasia raises several moral dilemmas, such as whether it is ever right to terminate the life of a terminally ill patient who is in severe pain and suffering. People have contradicting views on euthanasia, with some having the opinion that euthanasia should not be legalized even though it was morally right since it can be abused and used to cover for murder (Paterson, 2017). This essay will ethically analyze George’s decisions at the End of Life Decisions case study from a Christian worldview perspective.
Suffering and Fallenness of the World
Christians believe that we live in a fallen world. The fallen world is described as a world that eagerly waits for something better and a world that hangs its hope on what God will do in his people (Sumner, 2014). Christians perceive pain, aches, accident, disasters, illnesses, and death as the constant reminder of the fallenness of the world. The evidence confronts us every day and provides a clear picture of the world we live in (Sumner, 2014). According to the Christian creation story, when God created the universe, everything was good. When Adam and Eve acted against God’s will and fell into sin, God proclaimed a curse, not only against Adam and Eve but also against generations to come and the creation. The creation suffers at the expense of our sin and serves as a constant reminder of our fallenness before God (Sumner, 2014). Christians also believe that God, through his son Jesus Christ has set us free from eternal suffering. However, God has not taken His people out of the fallen world (Sumner, 2014). George would interpret his plight as a reminder that he lives in a fallen world. He could also perceive his suffering as the curse that God proclaimed against the generations of Adam when they sinned in the creation story.
Christians believe that there is life after death and that they will get eternal life after death. In the Christian scriptures, Jesus Christ died and resurrected on the third day (Turner, 2018). Christians believe that when Jesus comes to earth, all the dead will resurrect and ascend to heaven. Resurrection will be the beginning of eternal life with no suffering and death. They believe that during the resurrection, their souls will go to heaven, and they will be given new bodies (Turner, 2018). Earthly pain due to sickness or injury is perceived as a preparation for eternal life in heaven, which will be full of joy.
George would interpret his suffering as a journey towards eternal life where he will be free from illness and the world’s suffering. With the ALS degenerative disease, which will incapacitate him and leave him dependent on other people, he will believe that his suffering will not be eternal. He will also compare his condition and life to that of Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
George will view his disabled body as a vessel for the earthly life and believe that the body will die, but his soul will have everlasting life. Besides, he will be given a new body when he resurrects that will be free from suffering. In the light of the Christian narrative on the resurrection, George would believe that the ALS condition will only affect his body, but his soul will have eternal life. His suffering should make him look forward to the everlasting life after the resurrection.
Christians view human life as profound, precious, and invaluable. Life is considered to be extraordinary, marvelous, and mysterious. As a result, human beings are precious yet vulnerable (Peterson, 2020). Christians believe that God personally joins together every part of the earthly body that contains the eternal soul while a person develops and grows in the mother’s womb (Peterson, 2020). Furthermore, they believe that God designed and made humans and wishes that they establish a relationship with Him.
George’s ALS diagnosis will leave him disabled, and he will be incapable of moving, eating, speaking, and breathing on his own. As a result, he will be bound in a wheelchair and will require ventilator support to help in breathing. The Christian worldview would inform George’s view about the value of life that he was wonderfully made in God’s image and likeness regardless of his disabling disease. George should, therefore, view his life as valuable and priceless, and he should live the rest of his days with dignity. He will continue being a valuable member of society despite being incapacitated and incapable of attending to his activities of daily living. He should value his life as long as he is alive.
George imagines his life in full dependence on others for daily living functions and the torture, loss of dignity, and power that will
result from his diagnosis. As a result, he starts inquiring about the possibility of voluntary euthanasia (De Villiers, 2016). Euthanasia has led to debates in many countries as people try to justify it. It raises questions on why it should be done to human beings despite their suffering. The right to life is a universal human right, and euthanasia is viewed as failing to uphold the right. In the Christian worldview, euthanasia is considered to be breaking one of the Ten Commandments of “You shall not murder” (De Villiers, 2016). Furthermore, ending one’s life is considered as self-murder and is thus breaking God’s commandments. Life is regarded as a gift from God, and Christians are obliged to be thankful to God for their life (De Villiers, 2016). For that reason, deciding to have euthanasia is going against God’s will and is viewed as rejecting God’s gift of life.
Christians believe that the period before one’s death is a spiritual time. It is hence wrong to impede the dying process since it interjects the process of one’s spirit getting closer to God. Nevertheless, some values in Christianity recommends that several obligations differ from the general view that euthanasia is wrong. Christianity obliges us to respect every person. If a person respects another, he/she should respect their decision regarding the end of their life (De Villiers, 2016). Besides, Christians are expected to accept other persons’ rational decisions to decline to have to undergo burdensome treatment even though it may prolong life for some time.
Morally Justified Options
In George’s case, his decision to have euthanasia would be justified based on the Christian’s view of respecting other peoples’ decisions on their end of life. Even though euthanasia is considered as going against God’s commandments and wishes, it will be fair to remember that George will persevere a lot of suffering (De Villiers, 2016). Owing to his degenerative condition, he will undergo numerous invasive treatment procedures. The invasive procedures might result in the loss of dignity and incur him and the family a lot of resources. Imagining the pain and suffering that his condition will cause to him and his family, it would be justified to conduct euthanasia to prevent suffering. In the Christian worldview, it would be morally justified to respect George’s dignity as a human being as well as his decisions regarding his life.
If I were in George’s situation, I would first deliberate on the benefits and harm that will be caused by the decision to undergo euthanasia. I would think of the impact the death will have on my family and how they will cope with my death. I will then contemplate the effect of staying alive and enduring the suffering, including the emotional and psychological implications and the financial stress it will have on my family. I will research on the condition and find out what impact it has had on peoples’ personal, social, and financial life. Besides, I will study the effects of the disease on one’s health and how long it takes for one to become incapacitated and cannot breathe. I would further look at the morbidity and mortality rates associated with the ALS.
I will discuss the issue with my family and explain to them why I am considering the decision to have euthanasia. I will then approach my most valuable friends and discuss the decision with them to get advice on the best step to take in my condition. I would also seek spiritual guidance from a religious leader, as I also get spiritual healing.
In conclusion, George was diagnosed with ALS, which will leave him incapacitated and incapable of performing activities of daily living. He contemplates having euthanasia since the disease will make him completely dependent upon others for daily functions and perceives that he will lose his dignity. In the Christian worldview, euthanasia is considered as breaking God’s commandment and rejecting God’s gift of life. However, Christians believe that a person’s decision on end of life should be respected, especially when numerous invasive treatment procedures are involved.
De Villiers, D. E. (2016). May Christians request medically assisted suicide and euthanasia?. HTS Theological Studies, 72(4), 1-9.
Paterson, C. (2017). Assisted suicide and euthanasia: a natural law ethics approach. Routledge.
Peterson, M. L. (2020). CS Lewis and the Christian Worldview. Oxford University Press.
Sumner, D. O. (2014). Fallenness and anhypostasis: a way forward in the debate over Christ’s humanity. Scottish Journal of Theology, 67(2), 195-212.
Turner Jr, J. T. (2018). On the resurrection of the dead: A new metaphysics of the afterlife for Christian thought. Routledge.
Case Study: End of Life Decisions
George is a successful attorney in his mid-fifties. He is also a legal scholar, holding a teaching post at the local university law school in Oregon. George is also actively involved in his teenage son’s basketball league, coaching regularly for their team. Recently, George has experienced muscle weakness and unresponsive muscle coordination. He was forced to seek medical attention after he fell and injured his hip. After an examination at the local hospital following his fall, the attending physician suspected that George may be showing early symptoms for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The week following the initial examination, further testing revealed a positive diagnosis of ALS.
ALS is progressive and gradually causes motor neuron deterioration and muscle atrophy to the point of complete muscle control loss. There is currently no cure for ALS, and the median life expectancy is between 3 and 4 years, though it is not uncommon for some to live 10 or more years. The progressive muscle atrophy and deterioration of motor neurons leads to the loss of the ability to speak, move, eat, and breathe. However, sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell are not affected. Patients will be wheelchair bound and eventually need permanent ventilator support to assist with breathing.
George and his family are devastated by the diagnosis. George knows that treatment options only attempt to slow down the degeneration, but the symptoms will eventually come. He will eventually be wheelchair bound and be unable to move, eat, speak, or even breathe on his own.
In contemplating his future life with ALS, George begins to dread the prospect of losing his mobility and even speech. He imagines his life in complete dependence upon others for basic everyday functions and perceives the possibility of eventually degenerating to the point at which he is a prisoner in his own body. Would he be willing to undergo such torture, such loss of his own dignity and power? George thus begins inquiring about the possibility of voluntary euthanasia.