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Different religions approach euthanasia differently. From a psychological point of view such beliefs provide the social context that has to be addressed by people considering this topic

Catholic teaching Edit

Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a "crime against life".[1] The teaching of the Catholic Church on euthanasia rests on several core principles of Catholic ethics, including the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, concomitant human rights, due proportionality in casuistic remedies, the unavoidability of death, and the importance of charity.[2] The Church's official position is the 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[2]

In Catholic medical ethics official pronouncements strongly oppose active euthanasia, whether voluntary or not[3], while allowing dying to proceed without medical interventions that would be considered "extraordinary" or "disproportionate." The Declaration on Euthanasia states that:

"When inevitable death is imminent... it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to a sick person in similar cases is not interrupted."
The Declaration concludes that doctors, beyond providing medical skill, must above all provide patients "with the comfort of boundless kindness and heartfelt charity".

Although the Declaration allows people to decline heroic medical treatment when death is imminently inevitable, it unequivocably prohibits the hastening of death and restates Vatican II's condemnation of "crimes against life 'such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide'". [1] [Emphasis added.]

Protestant policies Edit

Protestant denominations vary widely on their approach to euthanasia and physician assisted death. Since the 1970s, Evangelical churches have worked with Roman Catholics on a sanctity of life approach, though the Evangelicals may be adopting a more exceptionless opposition. While liberal Protestant denominations have largely eschewed euthanasia, many individual advocates (e.g., Joseph Fletcher) and euthanasia society activists have been Protestant clergy and laity. As physician assisted dying has obtained greater legal support, some liberal Protestant denominations have offered religious arguments and support for limited forms of euthanasia. People such as Lutherans are taught euthanasia is wrong and that it is God who has the right over life and death[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Jewish policies Edit

Like the trend among Protestants, Jewish medical ethics have become divided, partly on denominational lines, over euthanasia and end of life treatment since the 1970s. Generally, Jewish thinkers oppose voluntary euthanasia, often vigorously,[4] though there is some backing for voluntary passive euthanasia in limited circumstances.[5] Likewise, within the Conservative Judaism movement, there has been increasing support for passive euthanasia (PAD)[6] In Reform Judaism responsa, the preponderance of anti-euthanasia sentiment has shifted in recent years to increasing support for certain passive euthanasia (PAD) options.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Islamic policies Edit

Islam categorically forbids all forms of suicide and any action that may help another to kill themselves.[7] [8] It is forbidden for a Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance[9]. The precedent for this comes from the Islamic prophet Muhammad having refused to bless the body of a person who had committed suicide. If an individual is suffering from a terminal illness, it is permissible for the individual to refuse medication and/or resuscitation. Other examples include individuals suffering from kidney failure who refuse dialysis treatments and cancer patients who refuse chemotherapy.

Buddhism Edit

There are many different views among Buddhists on the issue of euthanasia. Here are a few:

In Theravada Buddhism a lay person daily recites the simple formula: "I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings."[10] For Buddhist monastics (bhikkhu) however the rules are more explicitly spelled out. For example, in the monastic code (Patimokkha), it states:

"Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): 'My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,' or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion."[11]

In other words, such a monk or nun would be expelled irrevocably from the Buddhist monastic community (sangha).[12] The prohibition against assisting another in their death includes circumstances when a monastic is caring for the terminally ill and extends to a prohibition against a monastic's purposively hastening another's death through word, action or treatment.[11]

American Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:

Thus, from the Buddha's perspective, encouraging a sick person to relax her grip on life or to give up the will to live would not count as an act of compassion. Instead of trying to ease the patient's transition to death, the Buddha focused on easing his or her insight into suffering and its end.[13]

The Dalai Lama was cited by the Agence-France Presse in a 18 September 1996 article entitled "Dalai Lama Backs Euthanasia in Exceptional Circumstances" regarding his position on legal euthanasia:

Asked his view on euthanasia, the Dalai Lama said Buddhists believed every life was precious and none more so than human life, adding: 'I think it's better to avoid it.'
'But at the same time I think with abortion, (which) Buddhism considers an act of killing ... the Buddhist way is to judge the right and wrong or the pros and cons.'
He cited the case of a person in a coma with no possibility of recovery or a woman whose pregnancy threatened her life or that of the child or both where the harm caused by not taking action might be greater.
"These are, I think from the Buddhist viewpoint, exceptional cases," he said. "So it's best to be judged on a case by case basis."


  2. 2.0 2.1 Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Declaration on Euthanasia," May 5, 1980.
  3. " one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action."
  4. E.g., J. David Bleich, Eliezer Waldenberg
  5. E.g., see writings of Daniel Sinclair, Moshe Tendler, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Moshe Feinstein.
  6. See Elliot Dorff and, for earlier speculation, Byron Sherwin.
  7. Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 71, University of Southern California.
  8. Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35, University of Southern California.
  9. Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 35, University of Southern California.
  10. This is the first of the Five Precepts. It has various interpretations.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1994). Buddhist Monastic Code I: Chapter 4, Parajika. Retrieved 2007-11-11 from "Access to Insight" at
  12. There are only four offenses (parajika) that could lead to such an expulsion for a monk; eight such offenses for a nun (bhikkhuni). The other three parajika for monks are: engaging in a sexual act; stealing; and, falsely claiming to have achieved advanced spiritual states (such as jhanic absorptions or nibbana) (Thanissaro 1994).
  13. Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Educating Compassion” Article link at Access to Insight

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