Brittany Maynard found out she was dying when she was twenty-nine years old. Newly married and full of life, Maynard learned that she had terminal brain cancer in January of 2014. In April, after multiple unsuccessful surgeries, she was given six months to live. She considered dying in hospice care, but balked at the image of her family surrounding her bedside, watching her die an agonizingly slow and painful death. Instead, Maynard and her husband moved to Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide—a specific type of euthanasia—is legal. She chose to pass away in November of 2014 after taking the lethal prescription prescribed by her doctor (CNN 2014). This is the reality of euthanasia in the twenty-first century, although it has existed for thousands of years; throughout classical antiquity, euthanasia was a widely accepted practice.
However, with the dawn of Christianity and Roman Catholicism, society’s view of euthanasia began to sour. While the Roman Catholic Church experienced the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and postmodernity, it remained steadfast in its condemnation of euthanasia. Only in recent years—notably the last two decades—has euthanasia again began to gain widespread traction. Nevertheless, from a strictly Roman Catholic perspective, euthanasia is morally unacceptable regardless of the circumstances; the intentional death of any human being is sinful due to the Christian belief of God’s sovereignty, the Church’s teaching on suicide and homicide, and the Catholic philosophy of suffering. These beliefs, however, do not fully align with the shared reality and experience—the sensus fidelium—of many church members, signalling a failure of reception.
From an etymological standpoint, euthanasia has an extensive history. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word comes from the Greek eu-, meaning “well,” and thanatos, meaning “death.” The word first appeared in its anglicized form in 1646, and is currently defined as “a gentle and easy death” (OED n.1.). This definition, however, fails to acknowledge particular aspects of euthanasia that are essential in understanding its meaning today. The definition posed by the Euthanasia Society of America and set forth in The Morality of Mercy Killing, written by Reverend Joseph V. Sullivan and published in 1950, is more appropriately nuanced: “the termination of human life by painless means for the purpose of ending severe physical suffering” (3). This definition is preferred for two reasons. First, it emphasizes action; euthanasia is not just death itself, but the act that causes this death. The Roman Catholic Church does the same in its own definition of euthanasia: “mercy killing” (Sacred Congregation 6). Second, it clarifies the specific purpose of euthanasia, which is to end a patient’s pain and suffering.
This comprehensive definition of euthanasia can be broken down further into various different subsets: voluntary, involuntary, passive, and active. An article from the database of the United States National Library of Medicine, titled Euthanasia: Right to Life vs. Right to Die, clearly defines these terms. The first two terms regard who consents to the procedure. Voluntary euthanasia is conducted with the patient’s consent, while involuntary euthanasia is conducted without.
We will send an essay sample to you in 2 Hours. If you need help faster you can always use our custom writing service.Get help with my paper