End Of Life And Christian Love Discussion of end of life issues can be quite complex. Arguments on both sides of the issue can be extremely passionate due to the presence of deeply held emotional beliefs among opponents. This characteristic of the debate is fully inescapable in instances such as these. Despite the natural difficulty in forming arguments supporting a position on an end of life issue, I believe that there are some general principles which allow for the formation of a successful foundation. In taking a stance on heated issues , it is important to build an argument around fundamental concepts. By following this basic pattern, I find it possible to construct an argument against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide on the basis of the idea of Christian Love.
The word love holds many different meanings for many different people. The concept of Christian love is similar in that it also includes a multitude of facets. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does appear to outline the basic premise of love. Love is”the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love” (1604). The definition found in the Catechism establishes that it is the calling of every person to love.
This is the essential fundamental from which all of humanity is meant to proceed. Difficulties arise in attempting to answer this innate call. Individuals may have different views on what exactly it means to answer the call to love. We will first ponder this in light of the circumstances of the end of life situation. In any position on end of life situations, two scenarios may be present. Either acting to preserve life will outweigh the relief of suffering or relieving suffering will outweigh the preservation of life. Examples are present within Christian teaching which are fully applicable to the question of preservation of life at all costs.
An excellent example can be found in the incarnate nature of Jesus Christ. “Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). In this example of Christs love, lessons abound. Love cannot always seek to possess.
Love cannot be used to justify the decision to preserve life at all costs and for as long as possible. Part of true love is letting go. In the incarnation of the Word, Jesus did not cling to equality with God at all costs. True love of humanity allowed Christ to let go of pure divinity, just as true love sometimes calls for a person to let go of life. Actions that attempt to preserve life unconditionally, then, fail to adhere to an important facet comprising Christian love.
True love sometimes must learn to let go. Therefore, assertions supporting the preservation of life at all costs are invalid. The situation involving the elimination of suffering at all costs cannot be dealt with quite as easily as the unconditional preservation of life. We first must discuss the situation of allowing someone to die. In this passive action, nature simply is running its course. In allowing a person to die there is an acceptance of Gods natural order which mimics Christs own becoming obedient unto death, including the suffering of death on the cross. Based on this example, it appears that the possibility of letting die can be established as a highly permissible act, an act fully in conjunction with the principles of Christian love. Take for instance a terminal patient living out his or her final days. If at some point the patient stopped breathing, according to the principles of love, it would be permissible to withhold procedures of resuscitation and allow the patient to die.
It would be morally wrong, however, to give the patient an injection to end suffering quickly and painlessly. Initially, this may potentially be highly contradictory. The end of each act is the same. Death results, and in either instance, death has been imminent for some time. The only difference between the two possibilities is that in the latter, the period of suffering is shortened.
This would appear to be the noble action. However, while on the surface this is so, a deeper investigation must occur to uncover the moral wrong. To grasp the central issue, “we must distinguish what we aim in our action from the result of the action” (Meilaender 82). In the instance of letting die, we aim to relieve the suffering of the patient by letting go under the auspices of Christian love. Based on this aim, the resulting death is justified.
In the reverse, however, the aim of the injection is to bring about the death of the patient. The result of the action is the relief of suffering. It would be foolish to argue that the resultant relief of suffering is a negative situation. Clearly, viewed independently, the resulting relief is a fully positive occurrence. However, the aim of purposely causing death is wholly negative and impermissible.
Because the aim is not morally acceptable, the result of this aim, however positive or beneficial, is invalid as a source of justification. Based on this aim vs. result criteria, it is not possible to justify a relief-of-suffering-at-all-costs claim. Unconditional relief of suffering will involve a process in which the aim of the action is morally wrong. Although the result appears positive, this approach to end of life situations is flawed because its aims are morally impermissible. Refuting the arguments that seek to relieve suffering may seem to be rather callous. “It ought to be the case that dying people not suffer terribly.
But, at least for the Christian, it does not follow from that ought to be that we ought to do whatever is necessary- even euthanasia- to relieve them of that suffering” (Meilaender 84). In these cases, then, the only morally permissible action is that with an allow …