Medical Ethics: Christianity and Buddhism Perspectives

Ethical concerns are present in any working conditions. However, ethics in medicine is particularly important, and it has many complicated issues. Taking into consideration that more and more patients with chronic or severe diseases choose to perform euthanasia, it is necessary to contemplate on this problem. Ethics should be combined with the worldview and religion in order to present a full picture of the problem. On the one side, it is the duty of medical workers to relieve people’s pain. On the other side, assisting in committing suicide is considered utterly wrong by religion. Two of the basic world religions – Christianity and Buddhism – defend human life and consider it one of the highest values. Therefore, in Christian and Buddhist worldview, euthanasia is strongly condemned.

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Christian and Buddhist Worldview

A worldview is a set of beliefs which is different in every religion and for every person. However, while each faith has its peculiarities, the answers to some questions in various religions may be similar. Prime reality in Christianity and Buddhism is God. In Christianity, God is represented by the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. In Buddhism, the unity of a person with God is emphasized, and the reality is represented by the abstract truth: all is God, and all is one. While in Christianity everything depends on God, in Buddhism God is not worshiped and is not considered responsible for people’s happiness or unhappiness (Tripp, 2016).

The nature of the world around us, according to Buddhists, is not real; and the material world is not significant. Thus, they are trying to avoid the matter. Christianity, on the contrary, finds the matter a good thing. Everything was created by God and depends on Him; the matter is real; the world had a beginning and will eventually have an end (Tripp, 2016).

Understanding of the human beings in the two religions is different. In Buddhism, a human is united with God; individuality is diminished. In Christianity, people are more independent: they can have preferences, they are perceptive, and due to owning the spiritual characteristics, they can be connected with God (Tripp, 2016).

After death, according to Buddhist beliefs, people are reincarnated for a multitude of times. In Christianity, there also is the existence after death, but it is not multiple. Both religions emphasize the impact of humans’ lives on their existence after death. In Christianity, after leading a good life, one goes to Heaven and after performing many sins – to Hell. In Buddhism, bad behavior is punished by Karma and virtuous life is granted with Nirvana (Tripp, 2016).

The knowledge in Buddhism appears when one retracts from the world and tries to realize one’s inner nature. This religion is skeptical of logic; the prime reality is impenetrable. In Christianity, people are entitled with the ability to understand, which they employ to learn about the world around them. However, knowledge of God, as well as of life and death, can only be realized through epiphany (Tripp, 2016).

The knowledge of right and wrong in Christianity comes from comparing one’s conduct to God’s amendments and seeing whether the actions are sinful or not. When a person performs an immoral act, he or she needs to show penitence and ask God for forgiveness. In Buddhism, sin is viewed as a disregard of the genuine essence of reality. People are not required to repent but rather to enlighten. In Buddhism, suffering is considered a bigger trouble than evil (Tripp, 2016).

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The attitude to understanding human history is opposite in the two religions. In Christianity, history is crucial as it is connected with God: his significance in the lives of people is revealed through historical actions. In Buddhism, on the contrary, history is not essential as Buddhists do not comprehend the world with the help of an aim. According to Buddhism, there are no such periods in history as beginning or ending, there is only a never-ending rebirth circle (Tripp, 2016).

Interpretation of the Nature of Malady and Suffering by Christianity and Buddhism

Illnesses are frequently connected with people’s behavior and moral values. Both Buddhism and Christianity connect the disease with some past mistakes of the sick person. However, the approaches differ as for the time frame. While Christianity sees an illness as a result of a person’s misconduct somewhere in his or her life, Buddhism considers the malady a result of misbehavior in the previous life. Such difference arises from the various beliefs pertaining to the two religions.

Another divergence concerning illness and suffering is in the very process. Both religions view suffering as a lesson given to the ill person. However, while Buddhism only sees it as a lesson which punishes a person, Christianity treats the disease as an opportunity to change one’s fate. According to this religion, if a person is faithful, God will heal her or him (Schumm & Stoltzfus, 2007).

In both religions, suffering is considered a lesson given by the Higher power for the previous mistakes made by the person.

The Value of a Person’s Life in the Two Religions

The significance of people’s lives is treated differently in various religions, but the conclusion is unanimous: life has a value, and it should be cherished. Christianity finds the human’s life meaningful because people are created in God’s image. Therefore, considering someone’s life unimportant would be disrespectful of God (“Euthanasia and assisted dying,” 2009). In the situation with George, he finds his life miserable and worthless because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Shelly & Miller, 2009). However, according to Christianity, he must not think of relieving his pain by euthanasia and instead should spend time on thinking about his life and preparing to virtuous death.

Buddhism also considers a person’s life important, though for another reason. According to this religion, individuals should use their lives for trying to realize one’s inner nature. The life’s value is in based on the future more than on the present and past, as people’ hopes are concerned with the future (Yun, 2008).

Christian and Buddhist Views on Euthanasia

Both religions are against euthanasia as it presents a form of suicide. However, the reasons for being opposed to it are different in the two worldviews. In Christianity, euthanasia is considered wrong as it is the deprivation of life. In this religion, life is presented by God, and killing oneself is viewed as throwing out God’s gift. Christianity believes that both birth and death are designated by God, and no human being may interfere with them (“Euthanasia and assisted dying,” 2009).

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In Buddhism, prohibition of euthanasia is explained by the principle of non-harm. Buddhists believe that intentional ending of life causes harm, which contradicts the religious principles. Also, there is a common opinion that performing euthanasia is an expression of the person’s bad mental condition caused by physical pain. Thus, it is strongly recommended to relieve the person’s physical pain so that he or she should stop suffering mentally and would stop thinking about euthanasia (“Euthanasia, assisted dying, and suicide,” 2009).

Morally Justified Options for Patients like George

Patients with complicated prolonged illnesses, whose condition is never going to improve, have divergent opinions on their situation. One part of such patients justifies euthanasia as it can stop the pain. They have doubts about the possibility of medical workers’ efforts to relieve their suffering and are afraid of the gradual loss of their functions (Karlsson, Milberg, & Strang, 2012). Another part of the patients protests against euthanasia. These people believe that despite the pain, life is valuable and meaningful. Also, they think that it is possible to adjust to pain and have trust in the medicine (Karlsson et al., 2012).

The divergence of meanings indicates to the fact that with a proper approach of medical workers, patients will not consider euthanasia as an option. If proper attention and care are paid to cultivating the patients’ trust and helping them to cope with their anticipations, they will not consider euthanasia and will learn to deal with their suffering.

My Personal View on the Situation

In my opinion, people do not have any ethical right to deprive themselves of life or to help others do it. Even if a person is suffering, the religion does not approve of any form of suicide, one of which is euthanasia. I think that as a nurse, my job is to do my best to assist the sick people in their needs and to support them. However, I do not think I could agree to perform euthanasia. It would bring adverse outcomes both for the patient and for me. Maybe in this life, the person’s pain would stop. But nobody knows what happens after death. According to my religious views, the person may also suffer after death, and if he or she commits suicide, suffering will be much more serious than during the life. The same concerns the medical workers who assist in euthanasia. Sooner or later, they will be punished for their actions, and the extent of this punishment can be enormous.

Conclusion

Even with the advancing technologies, there are still many diseases which cannot be cured. Many people suffer from severe illnesses, and frequently they have to endure pain for many years. As a result, many patients start considering euthanasia as an option. However, religious postulates are opposed to such action as it equals a suicide. According to Christianity and Buddhism, human’s life is a valuable gift which should be appreciated and cherished and not thrown out. Both of these religions consider suffering as a form of a lesson which a person needs to learn. This lesson is either a punishment for previous sins or an opportunity to contemplate of one’s life and learn patience and hope. In any case, performing euthanasia or assisting in the process is not approved by any of the analyzed religions. They both believe that a life is given to the person by a Higher power, and only that power has a right to take the life away.

References

Euthanasia and assisted dying. (2009). Web.

Euthanasia, assisted dying, and suicide. (2009). Web.

Karlsson, M., Milberg, A., & Strang, P. (2012). Suffering and euthanasia: a qualitative study of dying cancer patients’ perspectives. Support Care Cancer, 22(5), 1065-1071.

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Schumm, D. Y., & Stoltzfus, M. (2007). Chronic illness and disability: Narratives of suffering and healing in Buddhism and Christianity. Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, 11(31), 5-21.

Shelly, J. A., & Miller, R. B. (2009). Called to care: A Christian worldview for nursing. Madison, WI: InverVarsity Press.

Tripp, D. (2016). Four major worldviews. Web.

Yun, H. (2008). Humanistic Buddhism: A blueprint for life. Hacienda Heights, CA: Budda’s Light Publishing.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 12). Medical Ethics: Christianity and Buddhism Perspectives. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/medical-ethics-christianity-and-buddhism-perspectives/

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