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Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum

Arguments For and Against Euthanasia

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Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum

Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum

Fortunately, not all of those essays opposing euthanasia are quite that extreme in their condemnation of non-Christians. Thomas Sullivan, for example, writes:

    “I fully realize that there are times when those who have the noble duty to tend the sick and the dying are deeply moved by the suffering of their patients, especially of the very young and the very old, and desperately wish they could do more than comfort and companion them. Then, perhaps, it seems that universal moral principles are merely abstractions having little to do with the agony of the dying. But of course we do not see best when our eyes are filled with tears.”

This is actually a very good observation to make, something which supporters of euthanasia should keep in mind. It is indeed important to remember that we don’t necessarily see best when our eyes are filled with tears and, hence, that our emotions might cloud our ability to make rational judgments. On the other hand, that isn’t quite what Sullivan is saying — I believe that he is, instead, saying that our emotions can cloud our willingness to obey absolute moral principles, which is a very different matter entirely.

A different argument is offered by Gerald D. Coleman, also providing a distinctly Christian perspective without also degrading nonbelievers:

    “...suffering is not an absolute human evil. Although suffering is truly an ontological evil to be alleviated whenever possible, it is not of itself a moral evil or without supernatural and human benefits. Some will certainly scoff at this view, but the Christian tradition holds that great good can come out of suffering when this is joined to the suffering of Jesus.”

This is one example where the moral and legal questions diverge. Even if we can agree that the above is a sound moral argument, it is incapable of providing a sound legal basis for criminalizing euthanasia. Individual Christians may use it to avoid euthanasia, but they cannot use it to keep euthanasia from others.

Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum

Euthanasia: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum

I don’t want to give the impression that the entire book is opposed to euthanasia, but I want to explain what sorts of anti-euthanasia perspectives are offered. There are very good articles defending the morality of euthanasia: for example, James Raches does a good job explaining the common argument how passive euthanasia (refraining from extreme measures to save someone) is no more moral than active measures (hastening death when someone is suffering).

The essays in the book are easy to read and demonstrate how different positions on morality create different positions on whether or not euthanasia should be legal. If you want a basic introduction to the euthanasia debate and a reference on the different arguments used, this is the perfect place to start.

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