It seems entirely hypocritical that a church that expresses compassion, leading prayers for those dying in agony, at the same time opposes ending that agony. But the Bible says ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and is thus the direct cause of millions of human beings dying in agony every year.
Whilst it is true that there is a ‘slippery slope’ between gently putting a cancer victim to permanent sleep at their own request, and getting rid of an annoying old relative who is lingering on, tying up assets that could be passed to the next generation, the law already safeguards against such an eventuality. They are entirely different moral cases, and it is not difficult to tell the two things apart.
The case is similar with suicide. In most churches suicide is considered a ‘mortal sin’ that condemns the person taking their own life to eternal torture. Old age is an implacable enemy of quality of life for all of us. Imagine the agonies of a person who can no longer stand living a life of physical pain, indignity, and suffering. Double incontinence and senility with occasional flashes of lucidity. Every movement another cause of agony. Huge ulcerous bed sores that won’t ever heal. Care assistants on minimum wage who don’t actually care at all. Tortuous visits from relatives who come and sit by the bed, and have nothing to say. No way to change anything except wait for that slow lingering death.
Death is the only way out of their tortured existence for some people, and yet if they are religious, they have been taught that they must endure it or suffer an eternity of even worse torture. If they nevertheless get up the courage to take their own life and end their suffering, if they are able, their religious relatives are then tortured by thoughts that their beloved husband/wife/son/daughter/ has been condemned to hell for all eternity. To the true believer, this must be torture from which there can be no escape in this life. If a member of such a church helps bring the suffering to an end, they ‘know’ they have aided in a mortal sin and will themselves be condemned to an eternity in hell, when their own time comes.
Let’s be honest – there’s hardly a person alive who would allow a beloved pet to die in lingering agony. We do the kind thing when it becomes clear that our old friend has no quality of life, and will suffer increasing pain and eventual organ failure and agonising death. We do the kind thing and put the animal to sleep. And whilst that is still a heartbreaking decision that many of us have had to take, we are comforted by the thought that we did the right thing.
Wouldn’t it be a good thing if we could do the same for a sister, mother, brother, father, son, daughter or beloved friend?
But whilst religions have still got a grip, whilst they still take their idea of what is right and what is wrong from a medieval book that dictates the ‘truth’, churches are never going to agree that in the right circumstances, euthanasia is the right thing. Now that’s a bad thing about religion.