Pastoral Care and Euthanasia
Many in pastoral care are faced with the dilemma of euthanasia. Although banned in many states, the right to die movement is a powerful one. This movement, however, is far from pastoral. It may paint images of taking someone out of their misery with compassion or ironically tying the words “mercy” and “killing” together, but if one looks beyond this, one will find nothing pastoral regarding euthanasia.
Euthansia is murder. It is that simple and those who seek to bring Christ to the dying and wish to represent a pastoral element can never condone it. Euthanais is suicide of despair. It is the rejection of Christ’s will and cross he has given someone. Furthermore it is the attempt to make oneself the author of life instead of God. As a sin of suicide, it shows the active act and the direct willing of death by the agent and requires the assistance of an outside agent to conspire in this taking of life. With this, it contradicts the laws of life and mocks the oath of all doctors to preserve life.
From a pastoral element,however, one is stricken with the images of such pain and suffering. Obviously a person in such condition does not deserve harsh criticism for seeking death but to the one thats duty is to preserve and protect is a different story. While some may be acting out of ignorance in such affairs, it is imperative that care givers realize that true pastoral care is not about ending life but comforting the final phase of it.
In such ways, hospice takes those who cannot survive via ordinary measures into its fold. These patients do not wish to end their life, but wish to spend the remainder of it as God wills. Of course, God does not forbid one to find comfort in sickness and sorrow. In this way, one who seeks death willingly or actively but merely accepts the natural reality of life does not contradicts the laws of God. From another extreme, as care givers, we cannot forget also that while some piously champion the value of life, they sometimes forget that unnatural prolongation of life or the use of extraordinary measures to preserve life are unneeded and sometimes more burdensome and painful to the dying and his/her family.
It is for these reasons that when one accepts the fact of death, one can with good conscience deny extraordinary measures and know they have not given in to the despair of euthanasia but instead have carried their cross to their own calvary with Christian dignity and heroism.
Pastoral care givers need to focus on making the journey of the dying to their personal Calvary a spiritually and emotionally healthy experience where comfort, love, and support are given instead of despair.
If you are interested in Pastoral Thanatology Education, please review the program.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C