Dying with Dignity: A Local Religious Perspective

Dying with Dignity: A Local Religious Perspective
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Nolan A Machan

Nolan A Machan

Nolan Machan is the Publisher of OakvilleNews.Org and has over 41 years of local Oakville knowledge. He is committed to providing Oakville residents with the most up-to-date information about our great town.

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Religion has shaped perceptions whether you are a believer or not. It permeates through our consciousness. As our community becomes more religiously diverse, it helps to understand how those different communities look at topics. So in order to provide this, we’ve asked local religious leaders to answer questions.

Question: What is your religion’s perspective on Dying with Dignity?

Rabbi Stephen Wise of Shaarei Beth-El Congregation
In Judaism, according to our traditions, even someone who is a terminally ill patient, is considered a human being in all respects so actively helping to kill that person is considered murder and so euthanasia is forbidden.

Jewish law also prohibits suicide thus assisted dying even for someone in a terminally ill situation, is also forbidden. While this might see definitive, there is some gray area, the more complicated issue is withholding or withdrawing therapy that might keep someone alive thus allowing them to die either more peacefully or quicker depending on how you look at it. I think that is the key issue.

While the Talmud says we cannot hasten death there is also a beautiful teaching that if the soul is trying to leave the body, we cannot hinder it. The Talmud gives the story of a dying Rabbi whose disciples prayed day and night by his side, not allowing him to die. At one point his nurse dropped a dish on the floor and when everyone turned in surprise and stopped praying, in that instance the Rabbis soul was able to leave and his body died. This was deemed the way heaven wanted it.

With todays modern medical technologies, we have ways to prolong life with medications and machines, so if we don’t use them or withdraw them are we hastening death or removing a hindrance to dying. I believe it is up to each patient and family to make these decisions and both can find justification within Jewish tradition.

Devote Muslim Majeed Khan:
Islam views life as a sacred gift from God and a trust from God for which one is accountable to God.

Life and death only occur with God’s permission. A life spent in accordance with the commandments of God and in serving His creation will be richly rewarded with peace and contentment in this life and paradise in the hereafter.

During times of comfort and ease one is thankful to God and this becomes a means of winning the pleasure of God. During times of hardship and difficulties one seeks God’s help through patience and prayer and this too becomes a means of becoming close to God and winning His pleasure.

Being patient in times of difficulty is rewarded with nothing less than paradise.

Islam emphasizes the importance of preserving life while alleviating pain and suffering. Islam requires that the person’s wishes always be respected as there is no compulsion in Islam. No person can have another persons beliefs or wishes forced upon them. All individuals rights and freedoms are to be respected and protected.

God says in the Quran, “Anyone who has saved a life, it is as if he has saved the
life of all of mankind” (5:32). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) emphasized this by saying, ” O Muslims, seek cure, since God has not created any illness without creating a cure.”
Muslims are urged to seek the best medical care possible and to preserve life .

Individuals suffering with terminal illness can however seek relief from pain with pain killers and analgesics as required. If high doses are required to relieve pain then it is certainly acceptable to provide higher doses as necessary to relieve pain and suffering.

It is appropriate to withdraw life support and allow a natural death to occur if an individual is in a vegetative state with no hope for meaningful recovery.

The time of death is predestined and cannot be delayed or brought forward by even a single hour as God says in the Holy Qur’an “When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour.” (Qur’an 16.61)

God also clearly states in the Qur’an that suicide is not permissible.
“Do not kill (or destroy) yourselves, for verily God has been to you most Merciful” (Qur’an 4:29).

In the Holy Qur’an Luqman the wise man advises his son “O my son! establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong: and bear with patience whatever befalls thee;. chapter 31: verse 17

Prophet Mohammad taught “When the believer is afflicted with pain, even that of a prick of a thorn or more, God forgives his sins, and his wrongdoings are discarded as a tree sheds off its leaves.”

To summarize God does not place a burden greater then the soul can bear – if one is in difficult circumstances where medical treatment is not possible then relief of pain with adequate pain killers and other comfort measures is advised.

Life support can be terminated to allow a natural and peaceful death.

Father Mark Gatto of Saint Matthews’ Catholic Church
The basic foundation of all Catholic social teaching is the dignity of the human being. We see all creation as good and human life as sacred. We are therefore called to care for one another. Also, we are not simply independent, autonomous beings, but we are all connected. So, a real solidarity is needed in which we care for one another. The deliberate killing of a person through euthanasia or doctor assisted suicide is seen as going against this basic vision of humanity and life.

Fear, and often a lack of resources to care for those in need is underlying the push for these solutions, rooted in killing rather than caring. Rather, we would want to promote a communal sense of care for all people, especially the most vulnerable, the elderly, the sick, the poor. This requires a commitment to the resources needed to support those who are faced with difficult challenges in life. In particular, our society should make a real effort to provide the proper palliative care that truly allows each person to face death in a dignified fashion. Also, we need to provide the necessary resources to care for those who are faced with mental illness of various kinds.

The danger is that the seemingly easier solution of doctor assisted suicide will invariably lead us as a society to encourage this path rather than the real commitment to provide for the care of all people. Usually, it will be the poor and disadvantaged who will be most affected.

As this reality becomes legal in our land, it is also a deep concern that the individual conscience of doctors and health care providers are respected. Certainly, it would be a terrible mistake to force such medical care persons to become part of a practice that they see as inherently wrong and against their entire vision of true medical care.

This is an emotional issue, often wrought with fear. It is crucial that the discussion around this important moral and ethical issue is carried out in a respectful, honest and civil way. Ultimately we are all concerned for a truly human and caring society.

If you have a question you would like to ask, please feel free to email the editor at Editor@OakvilleNews.Org.


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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Yasmeenkhan says:

    Great artical. Dying with dignity

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