Original Research - Special Collection: UP Faculty of Theology Centenary Volume One

May Christians request medically assisted suicide and euthanasia?

D. Etienne de Villiers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3397 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3397 | © 2016 D. Etienne de Villiers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 March 2016 | Published: 21 November 2016

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D. Etienne de Villiers, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The article deals with the question: ‘Is it morally acceptable for terminally ill Christians to voluntarily request medically assisted suicide or euthanasia?’ After a brief discussion of relevant changes in the moral landscape over the last century, two influential, but opposite views on the normative basis for the Christian ethical assessment of medically assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia are critically discussed. The inadequacy of both the view that the biblical message entails an absolute prohibition against these two practices, and the view that Christians have to decide on them on the basis of their own autonomy, is argued. An effort is made to demonstrate that although the biblical message does not entail an absolute prohibition it does have normative ethical implications for deciding on medically assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. Certain Christian beliefs encourage terminally ill Christians to live a morally responsible life until their death and cultivate a moral prejudice against taking the life of any human being. This moral prejudice can, however, in exceptional cases be outweighed by moral considerations in favour of medically assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia.

Keywords

Medically assisted suicide; Voluntary euthanasia; Christian ethics; Autonomy

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