Euthanasia and the religion of self

Euthanasia and the religion of self

Audrey English

Supporters of euthanasia often say that those opposed to it are motivated by their religious faith and that they should not impose this faith on others. In reality, those who believe in euthanasia are implicitly or explicitly accepting a philosophy which is an inverse form of religion. This is a philosophy which is centred on the self, on me, on my right to live as I wish, on my choice to do as I please.

In this inverse form of religion, God does not exist, man is totally independent, the self is supreme. Such religion, often proposed with great fervour, requires from its followers blind faith, a perverse hope and a false charity.

Those who choose euthanasia are required to have blind faith. They must believe in the infallibility of their human judgment in making a decision which leaves no margin for error. They must have complete faith in the judgement and integrity of doctors. They must believe in the absolute freedom of the will, ironically even to the point of self-destruction.

Faith in God is reasonable; belief in a world without God offends reason. Christians believe in an all-powerful, all-loving eternal God who is the Creator, the Lord of life and death. Euthanasia supporters believe in man who is mortal and imperfect claiming his right over life and death. Which of these beliefs requires the greater leap of faith?

Culture of death

This spurious religion offers its adherents a perverse hope. Since they do not believe in the spirituality of the soul, their choice can only be the void of nothingness. Thus the last hope that can be offered is that of a comfortable death. Through such belief, the culture of death is promoted, indeed cultivated, and euthanasia becomes the ultimate ideal.

A false charity is also a characteristic of this philosophy. Sometimes it is indeed compassion for the suffering patient which calls for euthanasia; other times it is expediency. True charity requires great emotional cost for the caring person who must support the patient, sustain the patient's feeling of self-worth, affirm the value of life. True compassion requires commitment from both government and medical profession to provide adequate palliative care. Terminating a life is the easy alternative, the cheap solution to the problem of an increasingly ageing population.

In order to make the culture of death appear positive, a whole language has been developed - a language in which traditional terms are used with different meanings in a way akin to Orwell's Newspeak - as with the pro-abortion lobby's talk of "choice".

To avoid any appearance of homicide, euthanasia as currently proposed is called "medically-assisted suicide". The impression given by this term is that the doctor is using his skill to benefit the patient. Our normal understanding of the doctor's role as a provider of health is now reversed and we are conditioned into a new acceptance of the doctor's role as a provider of death.

To avoid any risk of missing out on the benefits of euthanasia, people are being encouraged to make what is allegedly a "living will". It is called "living" though it is about dying. Would the same encouragement be given to programs which offer a search for the true meaning of life or for an understanding of death as the way to eternal life?

"Quality of life" is another term which suggests that life is only valuable when it fits certain criteria. It is a restrictive term: as the "quality" aspect diminishes, we are edged towards the final limit where the term becomes "quality of death" and euthanasia appears the only desirable end.

Words become familiar when they are used frequently and the concepts behind the words no longer seem repulsive or abhorrent. It is through such language that ideas are filtered and subconsciously adopted by a society.

What of the social consequences of this "quality of life" philosophy? Once the principle of selectivity is adopted, the life of the disabled, the retarded, will be seen as valueless. What of the unborn or newborn child who is handicapped? Will the aged or the frail be convinced of their own self-worth? Will they be able to stand the pressure of feeling that they are a burden to others? Will they be persuaded to take the "unselfish" step of accepting euthanasia? Once the sanction to kill is legalised, there will be little difficulty in shifting from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia.

What of the influence of the culture of death on our youth? The message our young people are getting is none other than an invitation to opt out of life whenever problems or suffering become intolerable. Australia has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the world. How sincere is it to lament such a statistic on the one hand and yet to work towards further eroding respect for the sacredness of life?

For the Christian, our understanding of life, of suffering and death are radically opposed to an inverse religion centred on the self; to the selective philosophy of quality of life. For us God is the Creator who alone has dominion over life and death. He has made us in his image and called us to be his children. Because he is our loving Father, he has given us the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to tell us explicitly what the natural law implicitly commands.

Value of suffering

Our understanding of suffering is "a stumbling block" to the unbeliever for we know the value of suffering. Suffering unites us more closely to Christ our Redeemer, as it makes us conformed to him. Suffering enables us to make reparation for our sins and the sins of others. Suffering accepted lovingly can acquire merit for ourselves and for others. Suffering contributes to the growth of the Mystical Body. Suffering is a gift.

For the Christian, death with dignity means being at peace with those around us, but most of all being at peace with God, passing on to eternal life fortified by the sacrament of the sick. A deliberate choice to be euthanased rules out the privilege of such a death. To ensure such a death we need to repeat often "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."

Andrey English MA (Hons) Dip Ed is a Sydney-based mother of seven and grandmother who was for many years a regular contributor to the 'Catholic Weekly.' She formerly taught at Anglican girls' schools and has written extensively, including a number of texts and an ACTS pamphlet, "Should we teach doctrine?"

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