Moral theology: dying well

Moral Theology

End of Life inquiries have ever been a challenge for the individual who is infirmed every bit good as the household and community within which they live. Confronting decease is a hard thing to face and because of the promotion of medical engineering, the challenges have increased exponentially with technological progresss. While it is true that each of us can non cognize the exact hr of our passing, it is going more and more apparent that we have some control over the continuance of our frailties and the degree of enduring or miss thereof that will be afforded. Evolving medical processs have the ability to maintain us medically alive even when wellness can non be restored in order to populate a life in copiousness. As a consequence of the promotion of medical engineering, a myriad of moral inquiries is before us. Should we be resuscitated? Should trouble medicine be administered? Should intervention be withheld or removed? These along with other inquiries are being asked more now than of all time before. The United Methodist Book of Discipline affirms scientific discipline and engineering this manner:

“We acknowledge medical, proficient, and scientific engineerings as legitimate utilizations of God’s natural universe when such usage enhances human life and enables all of God’s kids to develop their God-given originative potency without go againsting our ethical strong beliefs about the relationship of humanity to the natural world.”

These terminal of life inquiries speak to the really bosom of the Christian religion, stir the emotions, and prove the resoluteness and committedness of the moralss community. We have all heard people say, ” Please make non set me on all of those life support machines and hook me up to all of those tubings. I do non desire to be a vegetable.” These sorts of statements speak to a quality of life and an apprehension that decease is a portion of life, but even more than that, it speaks to the fright of enduring when decease is nigh. This requires us as faithful Christians, to look at these issues with regard to Bible, tradition, ground, and experience. For the intents of this paper, I want to research three inquiries. What is life? ; What is decease and deceasing? ; What is appropriate in respects to intervention in the face of decease and should euthanasia be an option?

What is Life?

Life by definition is “the quality that distinguishes a critical and working being from a dead organic structure ; a rule or force that is considered to underlie the typical quality of animate existences ; the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the being of an person ; or the period of continuance or utility of something.” [ 1 ] This instead clinical definition of life is contrary to the Christian position of what it means to hold life. “And God formed adult male from the dust of the land and breathed the breath of life into the man’s olfactory organ, and the adult male became a life person” ( Genesis 2:7, NCV ) . It is within this creative activity narrative that we as Christians learn the goodness and sacredness of life. The Genesis narrative Tells us that on the 6th twenty-four hours “God looked at all he created and it was really good ( Genesis1:31, NCV ) . As Christians we believe that we are created in God’s image and as such, human life is sacred, and because life is sacred there is a certain self-respect in who we are. This thought of sanctity does non hold foundations based upon what we do or carry through in life, but our value is in whose we are. Life is a holy journey, and each human being has an duty to handle each other with a fear and self-respect that is declarative of the spirit that has been breathed into us. Life is the foundation from which all other gifts of the spirit flow: friendly relationship, community, love, service to God, joy. If as Christians, we hold life to be sacred and that this life is a gift from God, Karl Barth’s words pealing true when he says that our life is a “divine loan” or a “divine act of trust.” [ 2 ] We have and are compelled to handle life with regard and recognize that the temporal life we live can non go a God which we try to keep at all costs in a denial that God is finally the life giver. If there can be understanding on what has been stated above about life, so we have to briefly discourse what it means to populate the life that has been given to us as a gift. We are non meant simply to act as a mere biological life signifier, but we are to be in relationship with other human existences to better non merely our ain quality of life, but to heighten the quality of life of those we encounter. To populate a life good means to laud God in all we do and to be in service to God and others through the power of the spirit and the grace and love that has been extended through Christ. There is a fantastic verse form by Linda Ellis entitled,The Dash.The verse form speaks to the life and worth of a individual that is non measured by their physical birth and decease, but by the old ages in between as represented by the elan upon our passing. “Human life is a particular instance with a particular worth” [ 3 ] and as such should endeavor to go forth this universe with a bequest that has made this temporal universe a somewhat better topographic point because we have lived in it. Because life is a gift to be lived to its comprehensiveness through God, we have to hold that as such we are simply stewards of this heap of dust we call our organic structure. As stewards we are reminded that while we have some control over this life, finally rule over our lives is under God’s grace. Just as Christ nourished life so should we, but merely in fear to the 1 who made us. This position of life reminds us that the ultimate good is non our ain life, but our trust and devotedness to God and as such indicates that although we should idolize life, that we should non seek to keep onto this life at all costs. Merely as life is to be lived in relationship to God and others, we as Christians have to accept that we are finite animals and in behaviors so “accept that human finiteness is a portion of life.” [ 4 ] Life and life are a portion of the Christian life every bit good as deceasing and deceasing good.

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What is Death and Dying?

The definition of decease has some interesting fluctuations. It is defined as “a lasting surcease of all critical maps: the terminal of life ; the lasting terminal of something that is non alive.” [ 5 ] These definitions suppose that decease is the terminal all and at some point we all face the inevitableness of this organic structure deceasing. Along with this definition are images of deceasing in which our civilization has so publicized that decease is to be feared. The media frequently portrays decease as a appareled entity with a scythe in his manus ready to devour some unworthy psyche and perpetrate them to the deepnesss of snake pit for infinity. Likewise Hollywood romanticise decease to the extent to which decease seems unrealistic and synonymous with a fairy narrative. As a consequence of these types of portraitures and our ain hesitance to discourse decease and death, there is a profound fright of decease in this state. This is evidenced in the many names that we give to decease without really stating the word decease. We use footings such as passing, traveling place, departed, and so on, in effort to avoid the true world of the state of affairs. Yet, we as Christians are a people of hope and in that regard should be purveyors of that hope. In the Christian tradition, we believe that decease is non the concluding reply to our being as a kid of the life God. Death is but another trail on the journey of a life lived in the trust and worship of God. The good intelligence of the Resurrection has to be taught and lived out in every facet of our Christian informant. So for most people, one might surmise that it is non decease per Se that people fear, but those events that lead up to our eventual death. Death reminds us of our ain human restrictions and even Christians frequently refuse to see the restrictions that our humanity affords. Topographic point this alongside our germinating technological progresss in medical specialty and we frequently behave as if we are traveling to populate everlastingly. In his bookDesire, Market, and Religion,Jung Mo Sung speaks of the “myth of progress.” [ 6 ] This thought is that modern engineering the progresss have become so great that we have dismissed the “notions of limits” [ 7 ] for the actions of humanity and have replaced the thought of mortality with immortality. He claims that we have advanced to the point that we are preferring scientific progresss over a natural decease. Because of this trust on medical engineering and leting scientific discipline to go our God, “death is non seen as a natural portion of our human status, but as a licking for medical specialty in the face of the diseases and other societal infirmities.” [ 8 ] This impression must be rejected on the evidences that decease is non the concluding reply and that because God breathed life into us, deceasing is non simply a medical event, but as Gwen London of Duke University provinces, “Dying is a religious event with medical implications.” So if we are to larn to accept decease as natural, and while we should ne’er rush decease as that would be an insult to the sovereignty of God, how do we decease and decease good? Eber writes that “death offers us the last chance in this universe to unify us through penitence and God’s grace with the sanctity of God. Yet this concluding religious battle is unfortunately frequently ignored.” [ 9 ] This component of spiritualty in the battle with decease, is exactly where the statement lies as to how we can decease good.

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If we can hold on the world of decease in the lives of human existences, so to decease with grace and self-respect is something to be aspired to. All of us have a fright of long agony and in our frailties going a load to our households and to society. Many people have said that they are non “particularly afraid of deceasing, but it is the procedure that is scaring. As a Christian community, we have to be involved in the lives of people to the point that we can offer Christian responses to the fright that the oncoming of deceasing brings. Amy Pauw inPopulating Well and Dying Faithfully,provinces that it is “here at the borders of life, the patterns of the community can proclaim what we need to hear: that even in decease we are non alone.” [ 10 ] By our really nature, we are fromed to be in community and in that community our lives are formed and woven into the really cloth of being. So, in that position, decease and determinations refering decease are ne’er ours alobe, but affect the really community within which we live. It is within this community that religious and practical support can be offered to confirm the holiness of life and the desire to continue with determinations that value the individual as a individual created in God’s image. In other words’ “the church surrounds those digesting the hurting, fright, and heartache of decease with seeable, touchable marks of confidence and hope.” [ 11 ] What is a good life or a good decease? “Dying good grows out of the Christian community’s effort to populate good in the present.” [ 12 ] It is within this construct of Christian community that determinations sing decease and death must be dealt with in relationship to the 1 who made us and to esteem each life as sanctum and sacred. In making so we can be assured that non even decease can divide us from God’s love and as a community we can “dare to foster the Christian patterns that will assist each of us to incarnate God’s clemency to one another ehile we live and so, when it is clip, to decease well.” [ 13 ] It is the proverbial inquiry of the timing and momnets of decease that is frequently debated. At what point is deceasing undo agony? At what point is intervention making more injury than good? Do we handle or make we allow nature take its class and in making so are we agents in that person’s decease? If they are enduring unmeasurable hurting, can we non assist the procedure along to alleviate their agony? These are inquiries we all ponder to which we must cover with and have a Christian response.

Euthanasia or Leting Die

We have to get down the treatment with some of the standard definitions associated with mercy killing. The word mercy killing comes from two Grecian words:Eufor “good” andThanatossfor “death.” In visible radiation of this definition mercy killing means “good” or “gentle death.” Within this definition there are frequently two differentiations made between “active” and “passive” mercy killing. “Active” mercy killing is the knowing, open, or consider act of killing a individual who is ill. For illustration: giving and overdose of hurting medical specialty or K chloride to discontinue bosom maps. “Passive” mercy killing is frequently regarded as withholding or retreating intervention and therefore leting deceasing to continue of course. Both of these procedures inquiry, “who is the agent in the procedure of deceasing? ” While clearly the agent in active mercy killing is a individual, either the physician or the patient, in inactive mercy killing it is non rather as clear. Both instances speak of purpose and as Gilbert Meilaender provinces, “we should ne’er take at or mean the decease of any of our fellow human beings.” [ 14 ] As we consider these definitions, we have to inquire what the difference between the two types of mercy killing and what are the moral deductions of each type? Some ethicians would reason that there is non morally a difference between each type. There are those that argue that while one is an act of committee and the other an act of skip, both are seen as killing under these footings. I would reason that there is a considerable difference between the two and the statement lies in the purpose and the bureau. Most advocates of mercy killing propose and support and persons “right to die” as a freedom afforded them as a individual and to let them a voice in stoping their ain hurting and agony. Legalization of mercy killing would open up a overplus of jobs and purpose would be the focal point of the statement. Most of the statements for euthanasia support the thought of liberty and control. While it is true that we want to be able to minimise agony in the face of decease, to be an agent in our ain decease or person else’s, “is the ultimate effort at pull offing death.” [ 15 ] If as we have stated earlier, we are created in God’s image, and the optimal word is created, so it is to God that we owe life and breathe. In active mercy killing we are presuming the function of sovereignty over the person’s life and finding that the person’s life no longer has value. As Christians and advocators for a life good lived, “our continued undertaking is non to extinguish sick persons, but to happen better ways of covering with their suffering.” [ 16 ] In contrast, if intervention is removed or withheld, we are confirming value to the individual and upholding God’s sovereignty and bureau in that person’s life.

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Readily I will acknowledge that this author is non a vitalist. A vitalist is the belief that “preserving life is ever the most of import good and hence that life should ever be preserved if it can be, at whatever the cost.” [ 17 ] While life is sacred and is so a gift from God, ” a vitalist place that idolizes this life is non sustainable.” [ 18 ] When we allow person to decease as a consequence of an untreatable or incurable disease can non be considered the same as actively helping in their decease. While on an submergence in the Houston Methodist Hospital system in January, this procedure of leting person to decease was discussed in our talk on moralss. In our talk there was a quotation mark from a nurse that had a profound consequence on my thought in this affair. Her name escapes me but she stated that,

“ We ( nurses ) are at the head of the intervention of our patients and in the midst of the relationships with and between the households and because of that are emotionally invested in their wellbeing. On the other manus, the physicians that entree their physical wellbeing are frequently disconnected from the state of affairs, yet are the concluding clinchers of the intervention of the persons. Often times, I think we do more injury than good.”

This individual statement caused me to believe that merely because we have the technological ability to maintain person alive, that many times we may be the very agents that causes drawn-out agony. If, as we have stated, that life is sacred and good, so the highest good can non ever in every state of affairs, to maintain person alive at all costs. Treatments that are onerous or unreasonable must be weighed against the holiness and self-respect of the individual having such interventions. This leads us to find what is sensible against what might be deemed unreasonable or useless. Ramsey defines a sensible attack as those “medicines, interventions and operations which offer a sensible hope or benefit without inordinate disbursal, hurting or suffering.” [ 19 ] Likewise he explains that unreasonable attacks are those that do non offer any sensible hope or benefit to alleviate the frailty or the agony they are meeting. He goes on to state that “the right medical process will supply those who may acquire good with the aid they need and those who are deceasing with the attention and aid they need in the concluding passage.” [ 20 ] We are non stating that there should be no attention at the terminal of life and merely to allow nature take its class. What should go on is an appraisal of the forecast and in the event that decease is at hand, enduring should non be prolonged but managed in such a manner as to value the person. These Acts of the Apostless of caring should “center on the individual instead than chiefly the disease.” [ 21 ] The American Medical Association defines futile attention as that attention which does non hold a sensible opportunity of profiting the patient.

Technology is non the enemy here, but the under usage or overexploitation of the engineering that we have developed is the fright that all of us cover with at the terminal of life.

[ 1 ] Merriam Webster. Access April 9,2014.

[ 2 ] Barth, p.336-343

[ 3 ] Vorster p.86

[ 4 ] Vorster p. 102.

[ 5 ] Merriam Webster

[ 6 ] Sung, p.13.

[ 7 ] Sung, p.13.

[ 8 ] Sung, p.13.

[ 9 ] Eber, p.3.

[ 10 ] Pauw, p.18.

[ 11 ] Pauw, p.17.

[ 12 ] Pauw, p.29.

[ 13 ] Pauw, 29.

[ 14 ] Meilaender, p.17.

[ 15 ] Meilaender, populating life’s end.p.20

[ 16 ] Meilaender, bioethics, p.66.

[ 17 ] Meilaender, p.17.

[ 18 ] Eber, p.184

[ 19 ] Ramsey, indispensable, p.199.

[ 20 ] Ramsey, indispensable, p.208.

[ 21 ] Hulley, p.98.