Death and Dying
Different people have varying opinions about euthanasia. It is one of the most controversial subjects based on religious beliefs, culture, and societal values. While some might consider it a way of going through a less painful death, euthanasia goes against the belief held by many people that life is sacred. Although death is inevitable for human beings, chronic illnesses can contribute to the excessive suffering that is likely to be stressful for family members and other caretakers. The global view on euthanasia and its effects on the family offer a different dimension of accepting and rejecting this practice. Some of the arguments against euthanasia are based on the belief that life is controlled by stronger religious forces that are beyond human understanding while those supporting euthanasia are based on the need to relieve patients of excessive or unnecessary pain. With this in mind, this essay will compare the Islamic and Christian standpoints on the issue of euthanasia.
Interpretation of the Nature of George’s Malady
The subject of illness and death for believers can often be seen as a test of their faith by God. Among Christians, it is believed that no disease or any sickness comes from God. Christians believe that God sent his son, Jesus, to destroy illnesses, as they were part of the works of the devil. In 1 John 3:8 the Bible states that “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (New International Version). Through their association of sickness with the works of the devil, Christians believe that sinning contributes to the occurrence of diseases as a punishment from God to human beings.
They also believe that sinning opens the doors for the devil in the lives of Christians who then torments them with illnesses. As such, Christians believe that if people are sick, it is a result of their sins and they should acknowledge their sins and repent rather than seeking conventional medicine (Wesselmann, Day, Graziano, & Doherty, 2015). Aside from chronic illnesses, Christians also view mental illnesses, depression, or stress as based on the involvement in sinful acts. Through this approach, Christians are likely to view George’s malady and suffering as a result of the sins he might have committed in his life or as a test of his faith.
Among Muslims, the concept of health and illness is categorized into four major groups. Muslims believe that illnesses can be spiritual, functional, structural, or superficial. Muslims believe that various factors contribute to the occurrence of diseases among human beings. These are ecological conditions, diet and nutrition practices, mental and emotional health, sleep patterns and wakefulness, psychological aspects, and retention and evacuation. Spiritual diseases among Muslims are viewed as those related to mental health such as Schizophrenia. Functional diseases among Muslims are considered as the illnesses that are related to temperaments and manifested through imbalances in this aspect of their lives. Structural diseases are those affecting different organs in the body and their functionality. Superficial diseases are the diseases affecting people’s skin such as severe forms of eczema or other illnesses that affect the hair (Ashy, 1999). From an Islamic perspective, George’s illness can be considered as having a spiritual and structural basis as it affects the organs of the body. At the same time, the deterioration of this condition might affect George’s mental status. Asking for Allah’s help through prayer can, therefore, help Muslims recover from their illnesses.
Value of George’s Life
Based on George’s assessment of his life, as a healthy human being, he had been productive in the society through his career as an attorney, his involvement in research as a legal scholar, and his participation in his child’s life through basketball training. While volunteering as a basketball league trainer for his child’s team, he also had the opportunity of influencing the lives of other students who were on the same team as his son. Aside from this, by volunteering as a coach, he got the opportunity to get closer to his child and build a stronger relationship with him. According to George’s analysis about his life, he views his life after the progression of the disease as being entirely dependent on others and being a prisoner of his body.
Christianity would view George’s life before the deterioration of his health as productive and helpful to his community. According to Christians, the productivity of individuals should not be decreased by illness as Christians are expected to rely on God for hope and pray for recovery. Christians would, therefore, consider his life during his sickness as important as his life while he was healthy (Wesselmann, Day, Graziano, & Doherty, 2015). Christians believe in equality and that every person is equal in the eyes of the Lord despite their condition. Through their belief, they may view George’s illness state as a test of his faith in God and believe in the power of healing. As such, George’s healthy state and recovery would act as a testimony to other Christians going through similar temptations.
In the Islamic religion, George’s disease can be viewed as a result of sin or the need for Allah to show his work through the illness affecting an individual. Islamic culture would base the value of George’s life not only on his career and participation in his child’s life but also his involvement in religion (Ashy, 1999). Regardinghis life after his illness and the value of his life, Muslims believe in caring for those who are sick up to their final moment of life. They consider those who are sick as important in the community as any other individual and focus on promoting healing through the Quran rather than leaving those who are sick by themselves.
Values and Considerations
Healthcare practitioners understand how, what people believe and their religious backgrounds affect their views and opinions about life. Among Christians, some of the values and considerations that will be focused on when determining the need to kill George intentionally include the sanctity of life based on the teachings of the Bible. Christians believe that human beings should adhere to the teachings of the Bible and ensure that they follow God’s laws. Christians believe that life is a gift from God and human beings are valuable as they were created by God in His image. They, therefore, do not advocate for the practice of euthanasia among Christians. Another consideration is that the process of dying is spiritual and should not be interrupted as this would be going against the laws of God (BBC, 2009; Shelly & Miller, 2006). Based on the values and considerations held by Christians, George should not opt for euthanasia, as he does not know the plans of God in his life.
Some of the values and considerations that Muslims would consider while deliberating about whether or not George should opt for euthanasia would include the Quran’s teaching about life and death. Muslims are against euthanasia as they believe that life is sacred and given to human beings by Allah. They also believe that Allah chooses how long each person will live and that human beings should not play any role in interfering with this plan. “Do not take life, which Allah made sacred, other than in the course of justice” (Surah Al-Isra 17:33). According to this passage in the Qur’an, seeking justice like in the case of punishing criminals is the only act that justifies the intentional killing of an individual.
Another deliberation that Muslims would consider is that suicide or euthanasia are forbidden in their religion (Ayuba, 2016). “The Prophet said: “Amongst the nations, before you, there was a man who got a wound and growing impatient (with its pain), he took a knife and cut his hand with it, and the blood did not stop till he died. Allah said, ‘My Slave hurried to bring death upon himself, so I have forbidden him (to enter) Paradise” (Sahih Bukhari 4.56.669). Although Islam provides teachings to Muslims about the power and control that they have been given by Allah, they also educate them about the sanctity of life, the importance of having faith in Allah, and the virtues of patience and endurance that they should have, which will enable them to face the challenges in their lives.
Morally Justified Options
Through the discussion conducted above on the different values and considerations held by Christian and Muslims, choosing not to opt for euthanasia would be the morally upright option in this case. Although there are no treatments that are currently available for the management of these conditions aside from those used to slow the progression of the symptoms, George should not opt for euthanasia as it would go against societal beliefs and most religions. Considering the advances in healthcare that occur on a daily basis, there is a possibility for the development of a drug that could effectively manage Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). According to Christianity, choosing to continue with his life while worshipping the Lord and waiting upon His grace in his life, would be an appropriate choice, as Christians believe that God is the giver of life and determines how long each person will live. In terms of Islamic beliefs, continuing to live would be viewed as a way of honoring Allah’s words that humans should not kill.
Personally, I think that George should not opt for euthanasia. While euthanasia allows his family to move on from his suffering while at the same time redeeming him from his suffering, it goes against my moral beliefs that life is sacred and should be honored. Considering that George is still in the early stages of his illness, he should consider the remaining tie of his life as a gift to be with his family and spend his final moments with them. Life is beyond human control and should not be taken for granted.
Although there are numerous advantages of choosing euthanasia such as quick death, reduced medical bills, and reduced suffering, it goes against most of the religious beliefs held by people. When considering euthanasia as an option in chronic illnesses, as in the case of George, families should take their time to discuss the impact that the decision will have on them. Both Christianity and Islam consider the practice of euthanasia as going against the teaching of God and Allah respectively.
Ashy, M. A. (1999). Health and illness from an Islamic perspective. Journal of Religion and Health, 38(3), 241-257. Retrieved from https://www.patchadams.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/health-and-illness-islamic-perspective.pdf.
Ayuba, M. A. (2016). Euthanasia: A Muslim’s perspective. Sriptura, 1-13. Retrieved from http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/scriptur/v115/01.pdf.
BBC. (2009, August 3). Euthanasia and assisted dying. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/christianethics/euthanasia_1.shtml
Shelly, J. A., & Miller, A. B. (2006). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Wesselmann, E. D., Day, M., Graziano, W. G., & Doherty, E. F. (2015). Religious beliefs about mental illness influence social support preferences. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 43, 3. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10852352.2014.973275.