In order to address the multifaceted subject of euthanasia, it is vital to define it first. It is the practice of allowing someone to die or killing a person in order to provide an easing of his or her suffering from pain associated with an incurable condition or terminal illness (“PHI 3633 WK 8,” n.d.). In the case of bioethical analysis, it should be noted that all ethical considerations need to be made at each step of healthcare delivery. The latter translates into a process where a nurse administers, a pharmacist dispenses, and a doctor prescribes. This means that killing is an active act of doing these actions with the intention to kill, whereas allowing to die is a passive form of this intention (ALFRED CIOFFI, 2021). In other words, it is critical to distinguish between active and passive euthanasia practices. The latter refers to allowing an individual to die by not providing him or her with the life-sustaining support needed. The active one is about injecting some form of lethal drug in order to cause death.
Pain and Suffering
One should be aware that the role of pain and suffering in the Catholic faith is significant. It is stated that suffering and pain are an act of participation in the redemptive strength, will, and power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, death, and passion in the context of the Catholic faith (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018). Therefore, the Catholic faith views pain and suffering as key components of redemption and not solely negative states. Ultimately, suffering is an integral part of a person’s redemption and exercise of will be necessary for participation in the Catholic faith.
Physician-Assisted Suicide/Death (PAS/PAD)
Physician-assisted suicide or physician-assisted death are ethically questionable practices. They are forms of suicide where a healthcare professional, such as a physician, assists a person in ending his or her own life. In the case of ethicality, the majority of the population tends to fall back to utilitarianism, but the ethics behind the practice are more complex and multifaceted (ALFRED CIOFFI, 2021). In other words, PAS or PAD practices involve some form of passive assistance with a clear intention of causing death.
Alternatives to PAS: Comparison
Since both euthanasia and PAS are questionable morally and ethically, one should look for better alternatives, which include hospice and palliative care. The first option is hospice, which takes place at a person’s home lasting for six months on average, and it is not covered by all insurance forms. However, it is centered around comfort care with the use of fewer medications and treatments (“PHI 3633 WK 8,” n.d.). The second option is palliative care, which is sometimes referred to as terminal sedation. The process takes place at a hospital with no specifically outlined timeframe. It can use more medications and life-prolonging therapies, and palliative care is usually covered by hospital billing.
Whenever one seeks to discuss and analyze a complex and controversial subject, such as euthanasia, it is useful to reflect and assess real-life cases on the topic. The first case is about Hemlock Society, which is an “American right-to-die and assisted suicide advocacy organization” (“PHI 3633 WK 8,” n.d., p. 10). It was founded in Santa Monica in 1980 and later was renamed End of Life Choices (“PHI 3633 WK 8,” n.d.). Essentially, the organization makes an effort to promote assisted suicide. However, such endeavors are made even more ethically problematic due to the involvement of power and profit interests. The second case is Jacob Kevorkian, who was convicted of murder for illegally conducting physician-assisted suicide for at least 130 patients (“PHI 3633 WK 8,” n.d.). The ethical issue is that some of his patients suffered from non-physical illnesses, such as depression, and was not terminally ill.
The third case is about Brittany Maynard, and it jumpstarted the legalization of PAS across the United States. The main reason was that Brittany was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Thus, she had to relocate to Oregon, which was a place with legal PAS, and lawmakers of California legalized the practice on the basis of this case. The latter led to legalizations in Colorado, DC, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California (ALFRED CIOFFI, 2021). Therefore, there was a major ripple effect of changing the legality of the practice.
The main idea of the ERD 59, 60, and 61 is that Catholic moral teaching does not support or promote euthanasia in any way, and patients in pain must be given the necessary care and pain alleviation in order to ease the suffering. However, the latter is not a justification for euthanasia and hastening death due to the concept of redemptive suffering (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018). Thus, it is important to note that euthanasia is a highly intricate and complex ethical issue. It requires a thorough analysis and understanding in order to draw any form of evidenced conclusions. In addition, there are more ethical ways to ease the pain of a person, which do not involve any form of active or passive suicide.
ALFRED CIOFFI. (2021). BIO 603 EUTH PAS [Video]. YouTube.
PHI 3633 WK 8 [PDF document]. (n.d.).
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2018). Ethical and religious directives for catholic health care services (6th ed.). USCCB.