Get help from the best in academic writing.

Euthanasia Essay – Lutheranism and Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Evangelical Lutheranism and Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

As a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, I feel it important to express in this essay the stand of the church on the question of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Our church has strong biblical and traditional reasons for adamantly opposing these new end-of-life approaches.

Increasingly, people know from their own experience some painful dilemmas involving elderly or handicapped individuals who are in pain. While the achievements of modern medicine have been used to prolong and enhance life for many, they have also helped create an often dreaded context for dying. Costly technology may keep persons alive, but frequently these persons are cut off from meaningful relationships with others and exist with little or no hope for recovery. Many fearfully imagine a situation at the end of their lives where they or their trusted ones will have no say in decisions about their treatment.

In this context, new emphasis is being placed on the rights of patients. Recent federal legislation, for example, requires all health care facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid monies to inform patients of their right to make medical treatment decisions. This includes the right to specify “advance directives,” [1] which state what patients wish to be done in case they are no longer able to communicate adequately.

We consider the legislation consistent with the principle that “respect for that person [who is capable of participating] mandates that he or she be recognized as the prime decision-maker” in treatment. [2] The patient is a person in relationship, not an isolated individual. Her or his decisions should take others into account and be made in supportive consultation with family members, close friends, pastor, and health care professionals. Christians face end-of-life decisions in all their ambiguity, knowing we are responsible ultimately to God, whose grace comforts, forgives, and frees us in our dilemmas.

Which decisions about dying are morally acceptable to concernd Christians, and which ones go beyond morally acceptable limits? Which medical practices and public policies allow for more humane treatment for those who are dying and which ones open the door to abuse and the violation of human dignity? Proposals in various states to legalize physician-assisted death [3] point to renewed interest in these old questions. ELCA members, congregations, and institutions need to address these questions through prayer and careful reflection.

Euthanasia Essay – Civil Remedies and Assisted Suicide

Civil Remedies and Assisted Suicide

This essay goes into the need for civil remedies to guard against assisted suicide actions by family, guardians, etc. Some states have already enacted such legislation, and others are in the process. This is a simple, safe legal procedure for protecting against the threat ot assisted suicide/euthanasia.

On May 2, 1994, a Michigan jury acquitted Jack Kevorkian of charges related to his publicly proclaimed assistance in the suicide of Thomas Hyde. The verdict points up the way in which the pathos of individual cases often leads criminal case juries to react emotionally, failing to give considerate attention to the general effects on older people and people with disabilities of signaling societal acceptance of death as the solution to human problems. This is a weakness in our society at the present time.

This is one of several strong reasons why more states should follow the lead of Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Dakota, all of which have recently enacted “civil remedy” statutes that, entirely apart from criminal remedies, allow private parties to obtain injunctions against those who assist suicides. Injunctions are granted by judges, without juries, and a judge can punish violators with sanctions for contempt of court.

Regrettably, the Kevorkian acquittal is not an isolated case of jury nullification of laws protecting suicide victims. Recent history demonstrates that no physicians, and few non-physicians, have been successfully prosecuted for assisting suicide. The emotional tug of individual cases makes prosecutors reluctant to seek punishment and juries reluctant to impose it. An article in the November 5, 1992 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine co-authored by Dr. Timothy Quill (who himself escaped penalty when a grand jury refused to indict him for his openly announced participation in assisting a suicide[1]) notes, “In every situation in which a physician has compassionately helped a terminally ill person to commit suicide, criminal charges have been dismissed or a verdict of not guilty has been brought.”[2] Other studies confirm this conclusion, which in fact is not limited to circumstances of “terminal illness” or “compassion.”[3]

While there have been a few successful criminal prosecutions of non-doctors, they have been extremely rare. A 1986 article in the Columbia Law Review concluded:

[A]ll indications are that assistance statutes are rarely, if ever, used. … [D]espite the thousands of suicides each year, only about fifty news reports regarding some form of prosecution in the past decade for some type of assistance to suicide have been located.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.