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Incurable Disease in Christianity and Buddhism


Religious beliefs play a crucial role in a person’s life, especially when there is a need to make a life-changing decision. In the case of George’s untreatable illness, the patient has decided to consider an option of voluntary euthanasia. A medical professional should respect choices that individuals make in regards to their health, and understand various aspects that may influence the outcomes. Thus, thorough research is required to gain an understanding of multiple views on human life. This paper aims to examine Christianity and Buddhism in regards to each religion’s view of life and death and apply the concepts to the case study of George.

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Worldview of Christianity

Prime reality is a term used to describe particular beliefs of an individual in regards to his view of the world around. Thus, it can be argued that each religion would have its definition of prime reality. The nature of the world around us is connected to the central figure of the faith in question – God (BBC, n.d., b). He created the universe and creatures that inhabit it out of nothing. A human being is regarded as something, created by God’s image in Christianity.

In Christian religion after death a person either goes to heaven or hell, depending on his or her actions during life. For humans, it is possible to know anything at all because God created them, and have similarities to him (BBC, n.d., b). For the same reason, it is possible to know whether something is right or wrong. The primary objective of human history would be to understand God and purpose of his actions.

Based on the primary beliefs mentioned about, several conclusions in regards to the end of life decisions can be made. Firstly, the religious belief does not support voluntary euthanasia. It is because of the religious views life as sacred and given by Gob. Additionally, “in the Bible it’s clear that human beings are not meant to choose when they die” (BBC, n.d. a, para. 6). Therefore, voluntary euthanasia would go against the primary beliefs of the Christian religion. It is substantiated by the Catholic News Agency (n.d.), which states that the use of the term euthanasia has changed over the years, from it describing a peaceful death to medical procedures aimed at ending one’s suffering. Additionally, the agency supports the claim that no one should ask for euthanasia as an end of life option.

Worldview of Buddhism

In Buddhism, the prime reality is the critical concept, which guides the religion. The notion of dharma describes the laws that lead the nature of things and order of occurrences; thus, it is the prime reality (BBC, n.d., b). The world around us cannot be separated from its components; therefore, people are part of the environment. Its nature is cyclical, meaning that there is no beginning or end. Human beings are regarded from the point of view that considers enlightenment the primary objective of life. However, humans are not the only beings that are recognized by the religion, as animals are supposed to be a substantial part of the world.

In this religion, knowledge is considered to be an illusion, together with the world around humans (BBC, n.d., b). Due to this fact, no primary distinction is made between the good and the bad. However, Buddhism does consider actions that go against moral standards as such that affect karma negatively. Similarly to the notions of reality and knowledge, time is regarded as an illusion. Cosmos is thought to exist without boundaries, and the history of occurrences in it has a cyclical manner.

The primary distinction between Buddhism and Christianity is that the first religion believes in the rebirth of a person after death. An individual’s karma plays a crucial role in identifying the outcomes of the rebirth process. Thus, according to Buddhism after death, a person is transformed and can live another life. According to BBC (n.d. b), Buddhists apply five precepts to the view of euthanasia. However, the position of religious leaders on voluntary euthanasia is unclear. Such actions indicate that a person has allowed his or her physical suffering to transform into mental stagnation (BBC, n.d. b). Additionally, it can be argued that such an impact on a person’s life would impair with the natural order of things, which would affect the karma of all people involved.

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Ethical Analysis of George’s Case

An intriguing aspect is the opposing views on the nature of a disease and suffering in Christianity and Buddhism. The first religion would regard George’s ALS diagnosis and the fact that the condition does not currently have treatment as a required suffering a human being has to go through. The latter, however, would base its conclusion regarding the fact on the rebirth belief. Thus, according to Buddhism, George has committed some wrong actions in his previous life, which have affected his karma and his health state. Nevertheless, based on the researched information, both Christianity and Buddhism do not support euthanasia as an option for ending one’s suffering due to severe health conditions.

Both religions value human life, regardless of psychical illnesses that a person experiences. Thus, both before his illness and after developing ALS, George would be regarded as God’s creating by Christianity and as part of the universe by Buddhism. According to McCormick (2013), suffering together with rebirth are two essential concepts of life in Buddhism. Thus, George’s illness would be considered as part of the natural cycle of life.

However, preparation for death has an essential role in the religion. It can be done through meditation, while euthanasia would affect a person’s karma and the preparation process adversely. Christianity would focus on the importance of human suffering as part of one’s life journey. This belief is derived from religion’s opinion on human creation. Therefore, both Buddhism and Christianity would consider the importance of human life and advice to avoid euthanasia.

In the case of George, Christianity would focus on the secret meaning of a human life, which was created by God. Buddhism would deliberate on the karma and cosmos as the primary factors guiding human existence. Enlightening of a human being is regarded to be the primary objective of life; thus a person’s death should be proper. Options that would be morally justified under each religion is therapy aimed at reducing symptoms and slowing the course of disease’s development. McCormick (2013) states that Buddhism promotes compassion and peaceful death. Christianity does not disapprove of medications aimed at reducing pain or affecting other processes of life.

It is evident from the presented facts that both Christianity and Buddhism do not regard euthanasia as a valuable option in ending human suffering. However, in practice, a person’s personal beliefs and moral views have to be considered together with his or her religion when making such a choice. In the case of George, it is unclear what religion he has, however, he has decided to research the option of euthanasia.

If the patient makes an informed decision to use such a possibility, his choice should be supported by the medical personnel. Unfortunately, in cases of untreatable diseases similar to ALS, medical professionals cannot provide adequate assistance to a person to relieve the symptoms. Therefore, George and people with other severe and untreatable illnesses should be allowed to opt for euthanasia.

Considering the individual’s perspective and opinion is essential in such choices. The study by Meier et al. (2016), evaluated the respondent’s criteria for a proper death, which patients, their families, and health care providers consider crucial. According to the authors, those are “preferences for a specific dying process, pain-free status, religiosity/spirituality, emotional well-being, life completion, treatment preferences, dignity, family, quality of life, relationship with HCP, and other” (Meier et al., 2016, p. 261). Although religion is among the categories, most participants identified the ability to choose the process, emotional well-being, and the ability to avoid pain as a primary objective. The study supports the argument that each person should be able to choose voluntary euthanasia as an option with serious diseases.

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Overall, both Christianity and Buddhism have different views on the nature of the world and human beings’ existence. However, both do not support voluntary euthanasia as a possible option for people with untreatable conditions. Other solutions can include medication to relieve pain and symptoms. Nevertheless, it is crucial to take into consideration a patient’s opinion on the matter. In the case of George, he has decided to research his options; thus his healthcare establishment should give him the information he needs.


BBC. (n.d. a). Euthanasia. Web.

BBC. (n.d. b). Religious studies. Web.

Catholic News Agency. (n.d.). Vatican document on euthanasia. Web.

McCormick, A. J. (2013) Buddhist ethics and end-of-life care decisions. Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care, 9(2-3), 209-225. Web.

Meier, E. A., Gallegos, J. V., Thomas, L. P., Depp, C. A., Irwin, S. A., & Jeste, D. V. (2016). Defining a good death (successful dying): Literature review and a call for research and public dialogue. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24(4), 261-71. Web.

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