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Death and Dying: the George’s Story

Abstract

Euthanasia is considered as opposed to God’s guidance and Christian tradition. The inherent human dignity and medical occupation should always consider opposing perspectives and find a coherent decision through long-standing care, communication, and consideration of patient values and life choices. The analysis of George’s story through the prism of Christian ideology and biblically grounded tradition helps one learn about the multidimensional principles of healthcare providers’ work and related ethical standards. The interpretation of George’s suffering is examined in terms of the fallenness of the world, the hope of resurrection, the sanctity of human life, and morally justified decisions according to the Christian faith. The theological emphasis on medical interventions and life-ending decisions might contradict the rapid technological advancements and changing values in modern society. Nevertheless, a patient’s faith and personal values are the most critical aspects that a clinician must consider throughout the treatment process.

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George interprets his suffering in light of the Christian narrative

The critical situation and consequent life decisions that George and his family faced are truly devastating. Religion and inherent spiritual aspects play a fundamental role in the caregiving of patients with such terminal illnesses and chronic health conditions, as in the case of George, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Christian believers consider death as given its ultimate sense in terms of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection (Hoehner, 2020). Christians are encouraged to be compassionate and relieve the pain, but not at whatever cost. The crushing load of the cross on Jesus’s back and the nails stabbed into the hands and feet embody the burden of the fallenness of the world that Jesus chose to bear. From this perspective, Christianity establishes the interconnection of evil and sin’s causal connections with the suffering and diseases in the world.

Concerning the Christian vision of the world, Jesus’ followers are called upon suffering this fallenness with him and taking up crosses of their own. Illnesses and sins are perceived as intertwined concepts in the modern world and are understood as inherent to the fallenness of the current society. George is now required to combat, heal, and respond to his suffering by reflecting a worldview restored to wholeness. Fitzpatrick et al. (2015) state that current recognition of the fallen humanity and shared condition of needing the care that people cannot morally demand might be a driving force for responding appropriately to patients. With that said, George is called to accept the disease in the name of God and respond with love and compassion, and constantly depend on His love. Such a theological undertone enables one to perceive illness as related to individual and social life choices and structures in a very complex manner.

George interpret his suffering in light of the Christian narrative

Jesus’ resurrection is the core of Christian philosophy and ideology. A successful attorney, law educator, and exemplary coach, George is unexpectedly burdened with the life-changing illness and has to address the life-ending decision. The hope of resurrection might be subconsciously nurtured in the minds of the Christians for all the accomplishments and serving God. The Christian worldview considers medical technology as a gift from God because He created the world with a structure that one can discover and manipulate to benefit humanity (Bogue & Hogan, 2020). With the advent of innovative technologies in medicine, humans can live longer than it was previously estimated. However, medicine is not capable of curing all diseases, including death and dying.

Since Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus, they regard that suffering is not ultimate in their life. By considering voluntary euthanasia, George might understand that ending his tortures would not be the final stage in front of God. His suffering might be interpreted as the challenging stage to become stronger and serve the love of God after his death. George will also bring peace to his family, as Christ brought sustaining and everlasting peace to all with resurrection. The integrated whole of Christian ethics and medicine implies Jesus’ resurrection and God’s establishing reconciliation through his son. A Christian applied ethic seriously considers the idea of God caring deeply about the dignity of life. The physical and spiritual aspects are combined in the human body and must be treated with respect. Therefore, the morality of physician-assisted suicide and the ethics of medicine, in general, are highly crucial questions to examine from the point of a Christian applied ethic.

George contemplates life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Within the current society, people address life in a particular way aim to discover and experience meaning in life. From the ethical point of view, there is a contradiction between the value of autonomy and the value of the inviolability of life. The choice of euthanasia is defined and examined regarding the value of human life and the meaning of suffering for Christians. Liégeois & De Schrijver (2018) identify three ethical arguments against suicide by considering it as an “offense of man against him- or herself, against society and God” (p. 32). To be more specific, those committed to the Christian belief should recognize God as the Creator and Owner of life. Human life should be acknowledged as a gift from God. Thus, by causing damage to life or ending it, people also damage the Creator.

Based on the Christian doctrine, all human beings, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or any other criteria, are created in God’s image and, therefore, possess inherent worth. This idea is deeply grounded in the biblical creation account in the book of Genesis. As interpreted by theologians, God’s image is connected to a variety of human attributes, such as “rationality, sociality, moral agency, and spirituality” (White, 2020, para. 5). However, His significance lies not in these properties, but in the fundamental value of human beings. The Christian faith endows the life of each individual, who owns moral, ethical, and legal rights, with an inherent worth controlled by God. With that said, the role of the future medical practitioners will imply the question of the value of human life as a principal value in society in the context of the central purpose of medicine in life-saving and healing.

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Whether or not George should opt for euthanasia?

When supporting other people, one should understand and respect their values and wishes. Each individual’s concept of the surrounding world is based upon their values, beliefs, experiences, culture, and adherence to societal norms, moral codes, and religious practices. Therefore, all these elements of life determine whether the decisions made are right or wrong and how people believe they must think or act. Those who follow the Christian worldview have their choices adapted to the biblical concepts and Christian living standards. With that said, regarding George’s situation and critical life-ending decision, it is important to consider God’s ultimate power over death and life when opting for such a choice.

The American Nurses Association requires healthcare professionals to provide respectful, compassionate, and ethically coherent care at the end of a patient’s life, so patients do not think about assisted suicide as an alternative. According to Frey & Blackwell (2018), the main emphasis of Christianity is the value of human beings as “creatures made in God’s image,” as well as the relationship that connects humans and God. The Christian ideology opposes active euthanasia and assisted suicide because of the Christians’ understanding of the core values defined in the faith tradition, interpretation of sacred texts, and long-established biblically-grounded tradition of morality. Euthanasia undermines the core ethical issues concerning Christianity, as it involves killing a person, which is the most severe moral issue. This can be explained by the central Christian consideration that implies the sanctity of life, where God is the giver and the taker of life and that His will takes precedence over the human will.

Morally justified options in the Christian worldview for George

Euthanasia is considered a morally acceptable choice for increasing numbers of people in the twentieth century due to significant social and technological changes in society and medicine. However, the end-of-life needs and will of the patients require crucial conversations about advance-care planning with appropriate documentation that records their explicit desires before the crisis to avoid any misunderstandings in the clinical practice. A Christian worldview is different in terms of dignity, human suffering, and the consequences of a good death. From the moral point of view based on the Christian faith, George faces a choice defined by a significant ethical difference between intentionally ending a life and accepting the end of life.

For the Christian believer, the suffering has to be relieved concerning the restrictions and principles reflected in the Bible and God’s command not to kill an innocent person. Such a theological understanding of the intentional acceleration of death constitutes the distortion of the idea of a good death. To be morally justified within the Christian worldview, George should yield his freedom to God’s will and purpose as the absolute of true freedom. Thus, George will perform his ultimate act of true human freedom in form of God. Furthermore, by leaving his life to God’s will, George will commit himself to the main principle of the Christian world that gives meaning and purpose to suffering (Hoehner, 2020). To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, George needs to recognize the limitations of medicine timely. Therefore, by rejecting or withdrawing a therapy, he accepts these limits under God’s sovereign and providential control.

What decision would you make if you were in George’s situation?

George’s story and the critical life-ending decision that he has faced demonstrated the multidimensional aspect of the healthcare provider’s responsibility in front of the patient. When addressing such crucial choices in life, one should acknowledge the patient’s religious identity and personal beliefs and values. This issue is highly important for the clinician to make the appropriate decision that meets both Christian ethics and traditions, as well as the code of ethics for healthcare providers and medical protocol. If I were in George’s situation, I would most likely give preference to voluntary euthanasia concerning the issue of self-dignity and power. This important decision has to be made given the family members who would have to deal with all the consequences of their father and husband being deprived of mobility, speech, and vital functions.

By analyzing the Christian perspective, one may conclude that human life is of the utmost importance and the highest value of an individual. The Christian’s dignity is connected with their creation in the image of God. George might choose between a supreme act of sacrifice to serve God’s purpose or relieving his and his family’s suffering by accepting euthanasia. Studying death and dying in terms of the religious point of view is indeed a complex and multifaceted issue to consider. George’s suffering might be perceived as a sin or an unfortunate turn of events for him and those he loves. The Christians are united to Jesus in their own suffering, and their own pain can bring spiritual growth in front of God. Most importantly, when facing Christian patients, healthcare providers need to understand the foundation of their calling to medicine and deliver comfort, care, and cure.

References

Bogue, D. W., & Hogan, M. (2020). Foundational issues in Christian spirituality and ethics. In Grand Canyon University (Ed.), Practicing dignity: An introduction to Christian values and decision making in health care. Grand Canyon University.

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Fitzpatrick, S. J., Kerridge, I. H., Jordens, C. F. C., Zoloth, L., Tollefsen, C., Tsomo, K. L., & Sarma, D. (2015). Religious perspectives on human suffering: Implications for medicine and bioethics. Journal of Religion and Health, 55(1), 159–173.

Frey, R. J., & Blackwell, A. H. (2018). Euthanasia. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), Gale virtual reference library: The Gale encyclopedia of nursing and allied health (4th ed.). Gale.

Hoehner, P. J. (2020). Death, dying, and grief. In Grand Canyon University (Ed.), Practicing dignity: An introduction to Christian values and decision making in health care. Grand Canyon University.

Liégeois, A., & De Schrijver, S. (2018). Christian ethical boundaries of suicide prevention. Religions, 9(1), 30–39.

White, N. H. (2020). God, humanity, and human dignity. In Grand Canyon University (Ed.), Practicing dignity: An introduction to Christian values and decision making in health care. Grand Canyon University.

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