Medical and Religious Ethics in Death and Dying


Death has always been one of the greatest mysteries for people. Being not able to cognize this phenomenon and having no idea what happens to a person after death, communities created multiple myths to explain this issue and eliminate individuals fear of dying. These stories served as the basis for the emergence and development of multiple religions, which also revolved around death as one of the central aspects of human lives.

That is why today, these two issues are closely connected with each other. Religion often predetermines people’s behaviors and attitudes to death, which means that in some complex cases, individuals appeal to it, trying to find an explanation of their state, answers to their questions, and support (Shelly & Miller, 2006). The given paper is devoted to the investigation of a particular ethical dilemma presented in George’s case study and religious perspectives on it.

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Religions

The fact is that different religions suggest diverse models of the world around us and basic principles of people’s lives. These unique features formed in the course of historical development under the impact of multiple factors like culture, peculiarities of the mentality, ancient beliefs, etc. Nevertheless, today we can observe a diversity of religions that impact people’s minds and might precondition their choices in situations similar to those George experiences in the case study. That is why two religions are chosen for the given paper. These are Christianity and Buddhism. Being absolutely different, they will help to understand the case and peculiarities of death, dying better, and evaluate this issue from different perspectives.

Christianity

First, speaking of Christianity, we should outline its central aspects. In accordance with the given religion, the world was created by a higher divine creature, God (Stott, 2012). That is why all things around us could be considered acts of God. Human beings were also created after the image and likeness of God; however, they are not as wise as He is, which means that they should live trying to understand His wisdom and act according to a specific code outlined in the Bible (Stott, 2012). In such a case, after death, a person will go to Heaven and continue his/her existence as the soul is immortal. At the same time, there is also Hell, where all sinners appear (Stott, 2012). In such a way, death is considered a certain line when all individual’s acts are summarized and evaluated, and his/her future destiny is decided.

Buddhism

Buddhism promotes another approach to reality. According to this philosophy, the world was not created by superior divine power (Stanford, 2013). However, the appearance of every new Universe is preconditioned by the impact of the collective karma of living creatures of the previous cycle (Stanford, 2013). In such a way, life is cyclic and depends on people’s actions (Stanford, 2013).

Additionally, Buddhism introduces the idea of karma, which means that both bad and good acts of an individual impact his/her soul and precondition his/her place in another lifecycle. The character of actions is determined resting on the existing moral values and code of conduct suggested by Buddhism (Stanford, 2013). As for death, the given religion considers it a new loop in the circle of life, and every person has to pass them all to reach Nirvana and attain the highest wisdom.

Interpretation of George’s Malady by Religions

Due to the divergences in perspectives on the world and its nature, the chosen religions have different interpretations of George’s malady. From the Christian perspective, all sufferings are heaven-sent, and people have to accept them and struggle as it is the only way to live and survive (Stott, 2012). Additionally, God might send these trials to examine a person and his/her faith (Stott, 2012). For this reason, George’s suffering could be considered using this perspective. There is no a “why” as God moves in mysterious ways, and there will not be any reasons for the emergence of this problem. However, George should be ready to face and accept it. Having passed through this examination, he will be able to go to Heaven as a sufferer.

Using the Buddhist perspective, we might suggest another understanding of George’s disease. As we have already stated, all people have karma, or a complex of all actions, bad and good ones, determining his/her living and destiny. Moreover, considering the fact that the human soul is immortal and passes through the chain of reincarnations, problems an individual faces at the moment could be taken as a result of his/her inappropriate actions in one of past lives (Stanford, 2013). In such a way, George’s malady could be explained by karma. Additionally, working as an attorney, he had numerous opportunities to offend people. In this regard, the current sufferings are one of the ways to cleanse his karma and enter a new circle of life.

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Value of Life

Turning back to Christianity, we should say that, from this point of view, George’s value of life remains high even regarding ALS. The fact is that the given religion states that all life is sacred, which means that all human beings, regardless of their physical, social, and religious status, should live and enjoy every moment of their existence (Stott, 2012). All people were created after the image and likeness of God, which means that they all are sacred and should be valued. That is why Christianity could be used to ensure George that event which this severe disease, his life remains important, and he should struggle for it.

As for Buddhism, it suggests another point of view. In accordance with this philosophy, we all live in suffering as it is the only way to achieve Nirvana and cognize the world (Stanford, 2013). Every new circle of life and every new reincarnation moves us closer to the end. At the same time, Buddhism considers each life a manifestation of a force that creates the Universe and is needed to support all living beings (Stanford, 2013). That is why George’s disease does not deteriorate the value of his life; on the contrary, he should face this suffering to be able to move to the next level and cognize himself better. Only under these conditions, his karma will be cleansed, and he will be able to enjoy a new circle of life in a healthy body.

Considerations about Euthanasia

At the same time, evaluating George’s thoughts about euthanasia, we should say that both Christianity and Buddhism prohibit it. The first religion considers suicide one of the greatest sins as a person destroys the greatest value and miracle of the world created by God (Stott, 2012). Such sinners will not be able to go to Heaven and are doomed to suffer in Hell. Buddhism also disapproves of suicide, considering it a great mistake that deprives a person of an opportunity to reach Nirvana, destroys a sacred life, and negatively affects his karma (Stanford, 2013). It means that he/she will have to pass new circles of life to correct this mistake. Thus, both these religions could be used to demonstrate the impossibility of euthanasia and its negative impact on the immortal soul of a person.

Morally Justified Solution

In such a way, regarding the information presented above, both these religions will morally justify the further struggle and attempt to live the full life. From the Christian perspective, a person should live under any conditions and care about his/her immortal soul (Stott, 2012). It means that George should forget about euthanasia and engage in struggling against ALS. At the same time, in accordance with the Buddhist point of view, suffering is an integral aspect of human lives which makes us closer to Nirvana (Stanford, 2013). In other words, George should accept his path and move forward coping with all problems that might appear because of his disease.

Personal Opinion

As for my personal opinion, I am sure that euthanasia is not the way out, and George should stay alive and struggle. There are several reasons for this assumption. First, he will have ten or more years of life full of care and support (“Case study: End of life decisions,” 2015). From the case, we can see that he has a loving family (“Case study: End of life decisions,” 2015). In such a way, it becomes one of the central reasons for his struggle. His teenage son and his wife need him.

That is why he has no right to give up and commit suicide. Second, despite the diagnosis, the forecast regarding his future is not accurate as the illness affects people in different ways. Additionally, numerous research works in this sphere might result in the appearance of a new efficient treatment (Hunt, 2014). That is why George should struggle against the disease for the sake of his family.

References

Case study: End of life decisions. (2015). Web.

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Hunt, B. (2014). Called to care: Encounters with faith in the field of nursing. Bloomington, IN Inspiring Voices.

Shelly, J., & Miller, A. (2006). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing. New York, NY: IVP Academic.

Stanford, L. (2013). The basics of Buddhism. New York, NY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Stott, J. (2012). Basic Christianity (IVP classics). New York, NY: IVP Books.

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