First, we need to go over some definitions, because different organizations have different definitions. The 2 most interesting definitions for me are the LDS church’s definition, and Stanford University’s definition. Let’s look at them.
Euthanasia is defined as deliberately putting to death a person who is suffering from an incurable condition or disease. Such a deliberate act ends life immediately through, for example, so-called assisted suicide. Ending a life in such a manner is a violation of the commandments of God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not believe that allowing a person to die from natural causes by removing a patient from artificial means of life support, as in the case of a long-term illness, falls within the definition of euthanasia.
Stanford University defines voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia.
Euthanasia may be conducted with consent (voluntary euthanasia) or without consent (involuntary euthanasia). Involuntary euthanasia is conducted where an individual makes a decision for another person incapable of doing so. The decision can be made based on what the incapacitated individual would have wanted, or it could be made on substituted judgment of what the decision maker would want were he or she in the incapacitated person’s place, or finally, the decision could be made by assessing objectively whether euthanasia is the most beneficial course of treatment. In any case, euthanasia by proxy consent is highly controversial, especially because multiple proxies may claim the authority to decide for the patient and may or may not have explicit consent from the patient to make that decision.
Finally, I can’t resist checking with Wikipedia
Euthanasia may be conducted passively, non-actively, and actively. Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of common treatments (such as antibiotics, pain medications, or surgery) or the distribution of a medication (such as morphine) to relieve pain, knowing that it may also result in death (principle of double effect). Passive euthanasia is the most accepted form, and it is a common practice in most hospitals. Non-active euthanasia entails the withdrawing of life support and is more controversial. Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill and is the most controversial means. An individual may use a euthanasia machine to perform euthanasia on himself / herself.
I encourage everyone to check out these links–I’m only trying to give a snapshot here. So, while the LDS church officially opposes euthansia, they don’t have the same definition as Stanford University. Under Stanford’s definition, then it seems the church supports passive euthanasia (refusing medical treatment, or allowing morphine overdose), and non-active euthanasia (removing life support). The church is against active euthanasia (assisted suicide).
So, I want to give 4 real-life scenarios, and see how people come down on this issue. I want to use Stanford University’s definition, not the LDS church’s definition.
Case #1: Passive euthanasia (refusing medical treatment.) Larry Miller of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Following a diabetic induced heart attack, Larry’s feet were amputated due to his diabetic condition. Larry contracted a rare disease called calciphylaxis, which calcifies blood vessels, blocking the flow of oxygen. It was discovered after the amputation wounds did not heal. There is no cure for calciphylaxis. He could have survived a few more months if he chose to go through dialysis, but he chose not live like that.
Case #2: Non-active euthansia. Eluana Englaro of Italy.
Her death was announced as the Senate was about to debate an emergency bill designed to keep her alive.
The emotive case inspired protests from both sides, and much soul-searching.
Case #3: Active Euthanasia (assisted suicide-fatal diagnosis). Chantal Sébire of France.
Here was a woman who was in excruciating pain with no end in sight. Her cancer was in her sinuses and face, but as she said, it would probably take years for it to kill her and pain meds didn’t help. The article states, “She also lost her senses of sight, taste, and smell and suffered severe pain that she refused to relieve with morphine due to its side effects, stating, “drugs are chemicals, chemicals are poison, and I won’t make matters worse by poisoning myself.”
She eventually moved to another European country, to get access to the drug Pentobarbital, a barbiturate that is not available in French pharmacies but is used elsewhere in the world for the purpose of physician assisted suicide.
Case #4: Active Euthanasia (assisted suicide, non-fatal diagnosis). Maxine Poris of Charleston, SC.
She suffered from fibromyalgia, from osteoporosis, from acid reflux, from a degenerative joint disease. Two knee replacements and one hip replacement didn’t help — she told people it felt like she was walking on tree trunks.
She couldn’t sleep most nights because she suffered from insomnia. She would tire after walking just a few blocks — or if it was hot, cold or windy outside. She was having bracing pains in her jaw and chest, pains her doctor told her was due to an enlarged heart.
a group called the Final Exit Network would travel to her home in Charleston, S.C., and guide her to her death.
Finally, the Stanford University site talks about the morality of euthanasia.
Debate about the morality and legality of voluntary euthanasia has been, for the most part, a phenomenon of the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty first century. Certainly, the ancient Greeks and Romans did not believe that life needed to be preserved at any cost and were, in consequence, tolerant of suicide in cases where no relief could be offered to the dying or, in the case of the Stoics and Epicureans, where a person no longer cared for his life. In the sixteenth century, Thomas More, in describing a utopian community, envisaged such a community as one that would facilitate the death of those whose lives had become burdensome as a result of ‘torturing and lingering pain’
I expect most people will endorse cases 1 and 2, since they seem to be in line with the LDS position. It seems to me that the Catholic Church, and Evangelicals hold a much more conservative position than the LDS do, especially when one considers the case of Terry Shiavo, which I did not highlight. Terri’s case is quite similar to Eluana.
Please compare the decision that Larry Miller made with Eluana and Maxine. How would you want to be treated in Eluana and Maxine’s position?