Abortion and euthanasia
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Abortion and euthanasia. -1-. Learning objective. To know and understand the overview of the course To know and understand some of the facts about abortion. KEY WORDS ABORTION PERSONHOOD TERMINATION. KEY QUESTION WHAT IS A PERSON?. OVERVIEW. The requirements of the course

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Abortion and euthanasia

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the overview of the course

  • To know and understand some of the facts about abortion.









  • The requirements of the course

  • some quotes about abortion

  • abortion and the law

  • two doctors

  • Consider different types of abortion

  • some of the facts about abortion

  • two camps for abortion

  • Overview of the abortion issue

  • the idea of personhood

Abortion and euthanasia1


  • Abortion: definitions for the start of human life, including: potentiality, conception, primitive streak, viability, birth

  • The value of potential and real life

  • Mother’s versus child’s life, double effect

  • Ethical issues involved in legislation about abortion

  • Euthanasia: active or passive

  • Ethical issues involved in legislation about euthanasia;

  • Voluntary and involuntary; hospices and palliative care

  • The right of humans to determine when to die

  • Arguments for and against abortion and euthanasia with reference to religious and ethical teachings


  • Does the definition of human life stop abortion being murder?

  • Can abortion and euthanasia ever be said to be ‘good’? 

  • Do humans have a right to life, and a right to choose to die?


“To my mind life begins at the moment of conception...

conception is the magic moment.”

John Grigg


“I do not believe that a fertilised ovum is a human life in the commonsense meaning of the term. I believe human life begins at birth or more technically, when a foetus is sufficiently developed to be capable of living if removed from the mothers womb. That human life begins at the moment of conception is a religious tenet that makes no claim to scientific truth”

Dee Wells

“What could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent?”

Pope Pius XI



  • Abortion means the deliberate ending of life after the fertilisation of the human ovum and before birth.

  • Today abortion is common for a number of reasons;

  • Sex is seen as being more for pleasure than procreation

  • Women have a greater social and legal status

  • Low child mortality has reduced the need for so many children

  • Foetal abnormalities can be detected.

Abortion and the law

Abortion and the Law

  • Abortion became legal under The Abortion Act 1967.

  • Abortions can only be carried out in a hospital, or in a specialised licensed clinic. Pregnancies could be terminated up until 28 weeks.

  • In 1990, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act introduced controls over new techniques which had been developed to help infertile couples and to monitor experiments on embryos. Despite attempts to use this law to restrict abortion rights, the 1990 Act lowered the legal time limit from 28 to 24 weeks.

  • In 2008 a motion failed to changed the law from 24 weeks to 22 or 20 weeks.

  • In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal.

Types of abortion

Types of Abortion

  • Providing that two doctors confirm that her need for an abortion fits the legal criteria, a woman does not need the consent of her own doctor, her partner or her family to have an abortion.

  • Women under 16 can have an abortion, without parental consent in some circumstances.

  • There are three main types of abortion:

  • Vacuum aspiration or suction termination (from 7 to 15 weeks of pregnancy).

  • Surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E) (from 15 weeks of pregnancy).

  • Surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E) (from 15 weeks of pregnancy).

Facts about abortion

FACTS ABOUT abortion

  • Abortion is commonplace in many countries

  • With tens of millions of abortions taking place each year.

  • According to the department of health data in 2006 there were over 193,700 abortions in England and Wales and 198,499 in 2007

  • The majority were conducted under 13 weeks gestation.

  • The proportion of women having abortions in England and Wales is increasing.

Two camps

Two camps

  • There are two camps when it comes to abortion:


    • Pro-life campaigners argue against abortion. They think that the life of the foetus should come before the choice of the mother.


    • Pro-choice campaigners argue for abortion. They think that the choice of the mother should come before the life of the foetus.

Abortion issues

Abortion ISSUES?

  • A key issue that we have to consider is:

  • When does a foetus become a person?

  • This is important because our key question is

  • Does the definition of human life stop abortion being murder?

  • The criminal act of murder only applies to a PERSON. When a becomes a PERSON its gets all the legal rights of a human in Britain.



  • A person is a being that deserves protection under the law.

  • One of the issues raised by abortion surrounds the definition of a person.

  • The point at which a life becomes a human is the point at which it is wrong to kill it because it will be protected by the law.

  • When we talk about LIFE or the START OF LIFE we will be referring to the start of HUMAN LIFE



  • The requirements of the course

  • Considered some quotes about abortion

  • Looked at abortion and the law

  • Know that two doctors are needed

  • Considered different types of abortion

  • Understand some of the facts about abortion

  • Know that there are two camps for abortion

  • Overview of the abortion issue

  • Introduced the idea of personhood

Abortion and euthanasia2

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective1

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the definitions for the start of life.











You should EXPLAIN the main points of view for the start of life.

You should demonstrate a personal viewpoint but do not evaluate.

Make sure you explain each point fully, developing it with evidence and linking the paragraphs together to create a full picture of the different points of view.

  • Explain the different definitions for the start of life.

  • 30 marks

  • Article 31and 32 will help from the reading pack.

  • In addition, create a mnemonic to remember the arguments for the start of life

What is a person




  • When a foetus is given the legal status of a person is essential to understanding the debate over abortion.

  • This is because killing a person would be considered murder.

  • If the foetus is given the status of a person before birth it means that anybody terminating a baby after that time would be guilty of murder.

  • The claim: abortion is murder would be justified

Definitions for the start of life

Definitions for the start of life



  • There are lots of different definitions for the start of life (personhood) here are the main ideas.







  • Many people believe that a foetus should be given the status of a person because it is a POTENTIAL person.

  • This is called POTENTIALITY

  • Anything that has POTENTIAL to be a human is a human.

  • What do you think about this?

  • Does that mean we should include

    Sperm and eggs?

Pre existence


  • Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists believe in reincarnation.

  • Reincarnation contains the idea of pre-existence.

  • This is the belief that the soul or existence of the new life has lived before.

  • It is a returning life and is not a newly created existence.

  • Life therefore has INTRINSIC worth.



  • Conception is the point at which the unique selection of genetic information is present

  • It is the moment the sperm and the egg have combined to create a fertilized ovum.

  • if allowed to continue and successful in development will go on to be a unique human being.

  • 1869 Pope Pius declared that a foetus is a human person from the moment of conception.

  • This has been the basis for Roman Catholic teaching on abortion that to kill a foetus is to murder a human person.



  • The fertilized egg is too different from anything that we normally recognize as a person to be called the same thing.

  • THOMPSON- accepts that there is continuous development in foetal growth but suggests that there is a point at which it is not a human being.

  • “There is continuous growth from acorn to oak true but an acorn is not an oat tree; just as a fertilized ovum – is not a person.”

  • GLOVER – to call a foetus a human at the point of conception stretches the term beyond normal boundaries.

Primitive streak

Primitive streak

  • Others have identified the presence of the primitive streak on the fourteenth day after fertilization, as the point at which a unique human being can be said to exist, albeit in potential form.

  • The primitive streak provides the structure around which embryonic structures organize and align themselves.

  • Up until that point it is not clear whether one individual or more than one individual will form, and at this point it becomes clear which cells will go on to form the placenta and which go on to form the embryo.

Primitive streak1


  • The ‘primitive streak’ is evidence of the start of the nervous system at 2 weeks. At this point it is thought that the young embryo can experience pain and has primitive sensations.

  • 14 days is the limit for embryo research. After this point it cannot be used.

  • This demonstrates that the law is recognising the change in the foetus at this point.



  • Thomson and Glover’s observations could still be made about the foetus at this time.

  • THOMPSON- there is a point at which the foetus is not a human being.

  • “There is continuous growth from acorn to oak true but an acorn is not an oat tree; just as a fertilized ovum – is not a person.”

  • GLOVER – to call a foetus a human at the point of primitive stretches the term beyond normal boundaries. It is completely unrecognisable.



  • Consciousness may be suggested as a definition of personhood.

  • Consciousness cannot be applied to all living tissue, as it implies sensory experiences, the ability to feel pleasure and pain. However, consciousness would include many animals, and most would argue that animals are not persons in the same sense as humans are.

  • The presence of rationality, and our ability to develop complex language and make complex tools, are distinctive features of personhood



  • However studies of chimpanzees and dolphins show that many higher animals use complex communications and can make tools with which to manipulate their environments.

  • Perhaps self-consciousness or self-awareness defines a human person.

  • This includes a sense of our own past and future.

  • However, very young babies are not self-aware in this sense and yet very few people would argue that killing a baby is not the same as killing a person, but this does not necessarily imply that full legal status should be aware on the basis of what it has the potential to be.

  • A potential victory is not the same as a victory.

  • A potential person is not equal to a person.



  • Viability is the point at which human personhood should be recognised.

  • Viability means when the foetus can survive a birth and exist independent of the mother.

  • This used to be referred to as quickening when the mother first felt the foetus move although now first-movement feeling and viability are not connected.

20-24 WEEKS

Criticisms to viability

Criticisms to viability

  • The age which the foetus can survive outside the womb is reducing as medical technology progresses.

  • The moral judgement is made on the basis of technical ability rather than anything inherent to the foetus.

  • Second there are many people who are dependent on continual medical assistance such as dialysis in order to survive. We consider them to be persons despite their medical conditions.

  • Also even healthy born human babies would not survive without adult aid.



  • Warren 1991 – argues that ‘birth, rather than some earlier point, marks the beginning of true moral status’

  • If a foetus is a person, then sperm and ovum are persons.

  • Birth provides a clear boundary.

  • Glover rejects this argument because of the similarity between later foetuses and premature babies.

  • Birth marks clear stage in the process of coming into the world and presents a stage of recognition by others that the baby is an individual.

Other issues

OTHER Issues

  • The MORAL STRUGGLE over personhood is unresolved even though the legal issue is settled.

  • Vardy and Grosch – note that despite the many attempts at drawing a dividing line in the foetus’s development there is no easy way of drawing the line with certainty.

  • 1985 – Gallagher asks us to recognise that change is gradual.

  • If an embryo is x at one time and James at another time, then there will be a time when it is part x and part James.

Other issues1

OTHER Issues

  • While personhood does not provide a clear solution to the abortion debate, the moral status of the foetus is crucial.

  • in a book on Christian Ethics – SELLING has argued that if a being qualifies as a person, then it has a direct moral standing with rights, and others have a duty towards it.

  • Whether that duty extends to full human status remains in dispute.

What do you think

What do you think?

  • Write an explanation of what you think is the start of life on the slide below and next. Say why and give a developed reason using PEE.

What do you think1

What do you think?



  • Abortion is the termination of a foetus before it goes full term.

  • There are 5 definitions for the start of personhood these all use different justifications for the potential of human life.

  • Pre-existence

  • Conception

  • Primitive streak

  • Consciousness

  • Viability

  • Birth


Abortion and euthanasia3

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective2

Learning objective

  • To consider whose life is more important the mother or the foetus.

  • To consider the self defence argument as a justification for abortion.









  • This lesson introduces one of the key issues in debate over abortion.

  • It discusses whose life is more important

  • The mother or the child

  • This presents one of the arguments for the justification of abortion.

  • Main philosophers: Thompson

Times when a person would want an abortion

Times when a person would want an abortion

  • What about when a woman’s life is in danger?

Getting pregnant

Getting pregnant

  • A pregnancy and a growing foetus have an enormous impact on the mother.

  • Not only does it cause physiological and emotional changes it places the mother’s body under enormous pressure and has significant health risks attached.

    • In the past before developed health care childbirth was a principal cause of women’s death and it remains so in less economically developed countries. LDEC’s

The issue

The issue

  • There is a complex question about the conflicting interests between mother and child.

  • At one end of the spectrum are the severe danger of death examples:

    • An ectopic pregnancy will kill both the mother and the child if left uninterrupted.

  • There are also increased chances of pregnancy aggravating existing health problems.

    • Mothers with heart complaints or high blood pressure are under increased risk of serious problems.


A pregnancy in which the foetus develops outside the uterus.

The issue1

The issue

  • If mothers become unwell decisions about taking medicines are complicated by the possible harmful effects those medicines may have on the unborn foetus – one must be weighted against the other.

  • These seem to suggest a rather unpalatable reality, that what may be good for a mother can sometimes harm the baby and vice versa.

  • Interests can conflict leaving a moral problem centred on the question of mother and baby equality.

The life of the mother

The life of the mother

  • In some situations it is hard to determine whose life is more important:

    Mother child


A defence of abortion thompson

A defence of abortion - Thompson

  • Thompson sees abortion as an issue of self-defence and uses this to justify it in some cases.

  • If the foetus threatens the health of the mother abortion is a defensive measure against unacceptable dangers.

  • Thompson uses the example of a cardiac condition which should the pregnancy be allowed to continue would place the mother in real danger.

A defence of abortion thompson1

A defence of abortion - Thompson

  • Thompson argues that it cannot be seriously suggested that a person must be stopped from saving their own life for the life of another.

  • It cannot be suggested that they must sit by and wait for death.

  • We can think of examples where someone is reasonably prevented from risking their life for a child – such as entering a burning building to save a child stranded inside.

A defence of abortion thompson2

A defence of abortion - Thompson

  • Once the fire is too bad the decision is made not to risk further life even though the desire of the parent to risk all and try is instinctive and laudable.

  • To prevent someone from escaping such a fire out of a duty to another seems unreasonable and unnatural

  • It is beyond a persons moral duty to give up their life for another. In the case of abortion if a woman’s life is in danger she should not be obligated to give up her life.

  • If she does, she goes beyond the requirements of morality.



  • How should a decision be made about the two rights to life; that of the mother or the baby?

  • Who should decide which life should be preserved over and above the other?

  • While we might kill in self-defence, it is unclear whether we should kill an innocent in self defence.

  • Perhaps the foetus has the right of self defence against the mother?

Double effect

Double effect

DOUBLE EFFECT: this is a doctrine devised to deal with moral conflicts in natural law theory.

It says that it is always wrong to do a bad act intentionally in order to bring about good consequences.

It is sometimes permissible to do a good act while at the same time knowing that it will bring about bad consequences.

In rough terms, this is sometimes translated as ‘provided your intention is to follow the rule, you can “benefit” from any unintended consequences.

  • One position which takes account of the threat to the mothers life is that which argues for a double effect way of thinking.

  • It may be that a medical procedure is necessary to protect the life of the mother which inadvertently and indirectly leads to the termination of the pregnancy.

  • In this way of thinking the action is not deliberately to kill but deliberately to save life.

  • The death of an innocent is an unfortunate side-effect.

Double effect1

Double effect

  • Pregnancy does increase certain risks but it does not mean death is likely for the mother, except on rare occasions.

  • What is difficult is deciding what risk is reasonable for mothers to have to take before permission for an abortion can be given.

  • Linked to this is the question of who has the authority to decide if not the mother herself.

  • Your view of a reasonable risk may differ from someone else’s.

  • Risk may also be influenced by other factors – such as the risk to other children in the family who may lose their mother.

  • How are these to be accounted for?

Homework mnemonic

Homework - mnemonic



  • People who disagree/agree with abortion have their view complicated by the problem raised when a child has a negative effect on the life of the mother.

  • Is it Self defence?

  • Can you use double effect?

  • Whose life is more important?

  • The mother or the child?


Abortion and euthanasia4

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective3

Learning objective

  • To understand the question of rights.

  • To understand the feminist view of abortion.









You should EXPLAIN the main points of view.

Include the argument from self defence and Warren’s feminist view point.

Make sure you explain each point fully, developing it with evidence and linking the paragraphs together to create a full picture of the different points of view.

  • EXAMINE the claim that the life of the foetus is more important than the life of the mother.

  • 30 marks

  • Article 36 will help from the reading pack.



  • What is the issue of self defence?



  • This lesson introduces ANOTHER of the key issues in debate over abortion.

  • This argument claims that by not legalising abortion the mother suffers discrimination in the eyes of the law.

  • This continues female oppression by the state and as a result abortion should be freely available.

The question of rights

The question of rights

  • So fair the debate has centred around the beginnings of life and potential vs. actual life of the mother.

  • We have been inadvertently talking about the RIGHTS of the individuals involved.

  • Now we are going to talk more explicitly about this.

The law on abortion

The law on abortion

  • Induced abortion in the UK became a statutory offense in 1803.

  • However in the 1960’s there was a period of extensive and rapid social and cultural change leading to the passing of the abortion act in 1967.

  • The passing of the act reflected the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960’s.

  • The law gave women more rights as humans. The right to control their own lives. This had previously not existed.

Ethical issues in the law

Ethical issues in the law

  • In Britain abortion is not legally available at the request of the woman.

  • After a woman has decided that she wants to end her pregnancy, she has to persuade two doctors to agree to her decision on the basis of restrictive legal criteria.

  • This requirement is not only PATERNALISTIC, but more damagingly, it allows the approximately one in ten doctors who are opposed to all abortion the opportunity to delay, obstruct or even veto women’s decisions.

The feminist position

The feminist position

  • Some have argued that there are other compelling reasons to permit abortion in all, or almost all, cases, not just when there is certain risk to the mother.

  • The feminist position begins from the historical experience of female suppression and a patriarchal society, and the role of religion in that history.

  • PATRIARCHAL: male dominated

Feminist position

Feminist position

  • Women were subordinated within the family and had their freedom limited by the constraints of motherhood and the unreliability of contraception.

  • Women's roles have primarily been defined in terms of motherhood and it was only towards the latter end of the 20th century that women in large numbers began to have equal legal rights and equal opportunities in employment.

The feminist position1

The feminist position

  • MARY ANNE WARREN believes women should have the RIGHT to abort unwanted pregnancies at any time.

  • It should become part of their RIGHT TO LIFE given to them by the HUMAN RIGHTS ACT

  • If not undesirable consequences would follow, such as dangerous illegal ‘backstreet’ abortions and even women self harming.

The feminist position2

The feminist position

  • Before the legalisation of abortion women have paid a terrible price.

  • Life in the family and without the option of contraception and abortion they are forced to bear many children at short intervals and become debilitated and died young

  • This is also a situation that aggravates poverty and places stress on families and whole societies.



  • Warren maintains that abortion must be permissible to guarantee women’s human RIGHTS OF LIFE.


  • LIBERTY: freedom

  • SELF-DETERMINATION: the process by which a person controls and directs their life.

  • Without the option of abortion women are still subject to the oppression of the past.



  • The world health organisation (WHO) says that unsafe abortions kill 200,000 women every year.

  • In Romania during a period of abortions being illegal there was an increase in birth rate but also an increase in the mortality rate of women through backstreet abortions.

  • Therefore, to be forced to bear a child is to be forced to undergo a risky process that may lead to the possibility of giving up work, education and consequent harm.

  • Prohibition of abortion thus infringes on a woman's basic human rights of SELF-DETERMINATION and LIBERTY.

Key question


  • What is the most important set of rights?

  • If the foetus is a person then it has its own right to life that might be more important that the mothers






  • SELF DETERMINATION in this context means the ability to control your own life.

  • Most people should have the right to control their own FREEDOM from the infliction of bodily harm.

  • Warren argues that in most cases killing is wrong to prohibit abortion on demand would deny a woman’s basic human rights.

  • She would be forced to suffer the risk of death – this is wrong.



  • If the foetus is given equal rights then, in principle, a court could force a woman to go through with a dangerous birth rather than abort, because her life would be considered to be no more valuable than that of the foetus.

  • The foetus’ life should be subordinate to the woman’s life, if not, it is another example of the oppression of women by the patriarchal society we live in.



  • This kind of ethical observation takes account of the political and social climate in which moral decisions are made.

  • It suggests that we simply cannot make idealistic ethical judgements and then enforce them in laws without looking at social and political consequences that may follow.

  • This presents an interesting difficulty for idealistic religious and philosophical ethical points of view which aspire to a more perfect world.

  • What we would like to be the case may not in fact turn out to be that way because of factors beyond our control.

Review feminism and warren

Review – feminism and warren

  • If abortion is not completely legalised it will continue the history of female oppression by the patriarchal law.

  • A woman, as a human, has the right to self-determination and freedom.

  • This allows her to free herself from bodily harm.

  • Abortion carries the risk of severe harm.

  • Therefore, prohibiting abortion forces a woman to risk harm.

  • This violates her human rights and continues female oppression.

Activity 1

Activity 1

  • From the discussions considered so far, which is of greater significance in determining your view over the ethics of abortion

  • The debate about when a human being is a human being.

  • The clash of rights (Child vs. Mother)

  • The question of public policy

Activity 2

Activity 2

  • You’re on a sinking ship and there is one lifejacket left.

  • You get the jacket and put it on, but another passenger arrives without one.

  • If you keep it you will live, while the other passenger will die.

  • Should you keep it or give it away, and why?

  • What are the ethical issues at stake in this situation and how do they relate to abortion?



  • Keyword pictionary

Abortion and euthanasia5

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective4

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the religious perspective on abortion.








  • What is the feminist perspective?

Religious perspectives

Religious perspectives

  • Ancient views of abortion differed, just as they do now.

  • ARISTOTLE favoured abortion to control the size of a family but the HIPPOCRATIC OATH prohibited it.

  • No biblical text specifically prohibits abortion, although a number are cited as providing a framework for prohibiting abortion

Key terms

THE SANCTITY OF LIFE: life has a special, holy value, beyond a material, exchangeable price.

PASTORALLY: pastoral care is typically guidance, in the way of counselling, given by a religious figure.

HIPPOCRATIC OATH: an oath stating the duties and proper conduct of doctors.

Key terms

  • “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.”

Abortion and euthanasia

Genesis 4:1

Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.

Job 31:15

Did not God make him as well as me? did he not give us life in our mothers' bodies?

Isaiah 48:1,5

Give ear to this, O family of Jacob, you who are named by the name of Israel, and have come out of the body of Judah; who take oaths by the name of the Lord, and make use of the name of the God of Israel, but not truly and not in good faith.

For this reason I made it clear to you in the past, before it came I gave you word of it: for fear that you might say, My god did these things, and my pictured and metal images made them come about.

Isaiah 44:24

The Lord, who has taken up your cause, and who gave you life in your mother's body, says, I am the Lord who makes all things; stretching out the heavens by myself, and giving the earth its limits; who was with me?

Jeremiah 1:5

Before you were formed in the body of your mother I had knowledge of you, and before your birth I made you holy; I have given you the work of being a prophet to the nations

Matthew 1:18

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way: when his mother Mary was going to be married to Joseph, before they came together the discovery was made that she was with child by the Holy Spirit.

The sanctity of life


  • The religious perspective revolves around the sanctity of life. This view states that all life is created by God and therefore, only God has the right to take life.

  • Life is therefore SACRED.

  • To say that life is sacred implies reverence and respect.

  • This is a core belief of Christianity. For that reason murder is wrong.


The sanctity of life1


  • Christianity generally prohibits abortion due to the sanctity of life.

  • However, despite the ‘sanctity of life’ there are some justifications for killing in the Bible; such as self-defence and war.

  • Death is ok as long as it is to prevent undesirable consequences such as the deaths of innocents.

  • Acceptance of these seems to be at odds with an attitude against abortion based on the idea of the sanctity of life.

Religious perspectives1

Religious perspectives

  • Religious arguments against abortion stress:

    • the limits of human authority over the taking of life and tend to be disapproving of abortion.

    • Claim that God is the life-creator and giver, and humans must not destroy what God has given.

    • State that there is something intrinsically good about life and about creating more life.

    • Claim that Life is sacred protected by divine authority with a specific destiny.

Religious perspectives2

Religious perspectives

  • As we said ‘life as sacred’ for Christianitybut there are differences when applying this to abortion.

  • Viewpoints vary:

    • Some are completed opposed in all circumstances with virtually no exceptions.

    • Others opposed in principles but pastorally sensitive.

    • Supportive of abortion in some specified cases

    • Believe the mother some have complete choice.

Religious perspectives3

Religious perspectives

Conservative religious traditions are deontological or absolutist and find statements to support a complete ban on abortion.

Other are more proportional and are willing to allow it in certain situations.

Some give more authority to the individual religious leaders are advisory on moral issues but not binding on all believers.

Remember for your essays

Remember for your essays

  • There is always a difference between what the religious teaching is and what a believer actually does.

  • Some Churches like Catholics expect all believers to follow their teachings. Some protestant Churches let followers follow their own conscience.

  • When you evaluate religious views you should show understanding of the diversity within religions and difference between official teaching and actual actions!

Overview christianity

Overview - christianity

  • Historically abortion is sinful

  • It is prohibited in many Christian writings

  • Christian writers have disputed:

  • the point at which the soul infused with the body (ensoulment)

  • If early abortions are as bad as late ones

  • But essentially it has always been viewed as murder.

Catholic view

Catholic view


The act or banishing a member of a church from the communion of believers and the privileges of the Church; cutting someone off from the religious community.


The process in Christian belief, by which a body is endowed with a soul.

  • Catholic – Abortion is intrinsically evil

  • Abortion goes against the natural law and the word of God and there are no exceptions or scenarios that make it right.

  • the foetus deserves the same status as a born human being.

  • Having an abortion leaves you open to excommunication



  • A foetus is ensouled at conception

  • It is therefore a person and should be given all the rights of a person

  • Abortion should be considered murder

  • the natural purpose of sex is to create life

  • Anything that stops the natural purpose of sex is wrong – therefore, abortion is wrong.

Pope john paul ii 1995

Pope john paul ii - 1995

  • “The church has always taught and continues to teach that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence, must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being is his or her totality and unity as body and spirit: the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life...”



  • Key quotes from the Bible.

  • Christian viewpoint is centred around the sanctity of life.

  • Abortion is wrong because it violates this.

  • A question is why are other deaths allowed if abortion is not then? War/self defence.

  • Catholics view abortion as murder because a foetus is a person at conception.

  • Pope John Paul made this clear in 1995.



  • Key word spelling game

Abortion and euthanasia6

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective5

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the religious perspective on abortion.









You should EXPLAIN the main points of view.

Make sure you show an understanding of the diversity of belief and reasons for diversity.

Make sure you explain each point fully, developing it with evidence and linking the paragraphs together to create a full picture of the different points of view.

  • EXPLAIN the view of a religion you have studied on abortion.

  • 30 marks

  • Article 35 and 38 will help from the reading pack.



  • What is the religious view based on?

  • What is the Catholic viewpoint?

  • What do Catholics view about the Soul?

  • Why do the claim that abortion is murder?



  • The orthodox church and the evangelical church.

  • The Church of England

  • What if the life of the mother is threatened?

  • Double effect

  • Catholic thinking

  • Double effect in practice

  • Liberal protestants

  • The Situationists approach

  • Examiners tips

Orthodox church and evangelical

Orthodox church and evangelical

  • Both oppose abortion because God is the author of life.

  • DAVID SMITH identifies four principles that broadly summaries the Christian absolute rejection of abortion.

  • God alone is Lord of life and death

  • Humans have no right to take life

  • Human life begins at conception

  • Abortion at any stage is murder or an innocent

Church of england


What ethical language would you use to characterise each of the different Church perspectives on abortion?

Write four sentences for each of the Roman Catholic, C.of.E and Episcopal Church using these words as you think appropriate: absolutist, Autonomy, conscience, deontological, moral law, proportional, relativistic, situational, teleological

Church of england

  • Leaves Anglicans to make their own decisions using the conscience.

  • The General Synod (church governing body), has expressed opposition to abortion, on the basis of:

  • The right to life argument

  • Contravenes moral law

  • They are concerned with the growing number of abortions but recognise their can be limited conditions when it is approved.

  • Such as the life of the mother being threatened.

What if the life of the mother is threatened

What if the life of the mother is threatened?

  • In an ectopic pregnancy the fallopian tube is usually removed and the embryo dies, thus saving the Mother.

  • Christians use double effect to justify this.

  • The doctor intends to save the mother rather than kill the foetus meaning it is morally ok.

  • AQUINAS – there must be proportionate need, such as saving a life, to perform an action which has a second evil effect.

  • That evil effect must be equally immediate to the good effect so that there is no question that what is in fact going on is doing evil for a good reason.

Double effect in practice

Double effect in practice

Mother’s life is saved (first ‘good’ effect)


fallopian tube

Foetus dies

(second ‘bad’ effect)

Catholic thinking

Catholic thinking

  • Accepts double effect as a justifiable ethical doctrine in order to save the life of the Mother.

  • Vardy and Grosch identify an error

    • New laser technology will enable women to have a safer operation which involves the foetus being ‘lasered’ rather than the fallopian tube removed.

    • The result is better for the mother but requires directly, killing the foetus.

Double effect in practice1

Double effect in practice

  • Here the foetus’ death is primary not secondary action.

  • This is different than the traditional interpretation of double effect.

  • Most churches have left open the ethical route by which saving the mother’s life can be priorities over the unborn.

Laser foetus

(bad act)

Mother’s life is saved

(good consequence)

Liberal protestant christians

Liberal protestant Christians

  • Oppose abortion in principle and advocate the preservation of life

  • BUT allow abortion in some situations

  • PRIOR to the formation of the nervous system and brain

  • Situations where the Mother’s life is threatened

  • Rape or incest

  • When the Mother’s mental health or physical health is endangered.


This USA branch of the Church of England take a pro-choice stand supporting a woman’s right to choose and opposing government action that limits a woman’s right to choose.

Situational approach

Situational approach

  • Use the teachings of Jesus to work out the most loving thing to do.

  • Abortion is justified as long as it is the most loving thing to do.

  • This love must be unconditional and selfless.

  • The life of the Mother would represent a selfless move.



  • Lots of different Christian views on abortion.

  • Official teaching is not always represented in the action of the believer.

  • Centred around the sanctity of life principle.



C of E














Examiners tip

Examiners tip

  • Another exam black spot is the insufficient attention paid to religious pluralism. Within any one religious tradition, there are often big differences of approach, and candidates often gloss over these by inclusive phrases about what all “Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc believe.”

  • Don't say things life ‘abortion is killing, and killing is wrong’

  • The Commandment does not say “do not kill”; the word used is “murder”

  • Do not label abortion as murder this is begging the question

Abortion and euthanasia


  • Create a plan for your essay.

  • It should have approximately 6 paragraphs.

  • Use a 1-2 two word PEE for each paragraph.

  • What would you write in your conclusion?

  • Have you supported your viewpoint?

When you have completed your plan, swop with somebody else and read theirs.

Is it clear that they will answer the question?

Do you think they have missed anything out that you would have put in?



  • Key word dominos

Abortion and euthanasia7

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective6

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the key terms for euthanasia

  • To know and understand what euthanasia is


Active euthanasia

passive euthanasia

Living will


R. H. Crook




Extra information

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/health/euthanasia/case.stm

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/sep/23/assisted-suicide-guidelines-legal

  • Write a summary of the three cases on these websites and the new legal guidelines on assisted suicide.

  • 1 page

Key questions

Key questions

  • Is there any moral justification for taking your own life?

  • Is it wrong to assist in killing those who don’t want to live?

  • Is there a difference between withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and delivering a lethal injection?

  • Should comatose patients who have no hope of recovery be kept alive for as long as technology permits?

  • Is human dignity better defined or sustained by having freedom to choose to end life or not having that freedom?



  • Euthanasia is the termination of a person’s life, either with their consent or without, as a way of alleviating pain or removing unnecessary suffering.

  • The word comes from two Greek words

  • EU meaning good

  • And THANOSmeaning death.

  • It literally translates as good death

Who might want to have euthanasia

Who might want to have euthanasia?



Annie Lindsell – suffering with Motor Neurone disease in December 1997 was worried she would die in pain. She requested the High Court to allow a doctor to administer her with diamorphine.

Tony Bland – victim of the Hilsbourgh disaster was allowed to die by the courts through withdrawal of food.

Dianne Pretty – wanted the courts to allow her husband to help her commit suicide because she feared the choking and asphyxia often caused by her disease. This went to the ECHR and was declined because the right to die was not part of her right to life.

What is the role of a doctor

What is the role of a doctor?

The role of a doctor

The role of a doctor

  • The job of a doctor is to heal.

  • The hippocratic oath that a doctor must take entails the requirement that they do not willing harm another person.

  • But many people argue a doctors job is to preserve the quality of a persons life by healing.

  • If this is the case surely if a person feels they have no quality of life a doctor should preserve that by helping them to die?



  • I will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice that may cause his death.’

  • Hippocrates



  • “Physicians are not only to restore health, but to mitigate pain and dolours; and not only when such mitigation may conduce to recovery, but when it serve to make a fair and easy passage”

  • Francis Bacon



  • Some doctors maintain that killing a patient should not fit in with what a doctor should do.

  • A doctor should heal, prevent diseases and assist people in living a healthy life.

  • Some doctors today feel that the need to preserve the patient’s quality of life extends to a duty to help that patient end his or her life in the way that he or she sees fit.

  • What do you think?



  • In thinking about what sort of death a person should have, one can say that a peaceful death is one in which pain and suffering are minimised, where the patient is never neglected and whose needs are always taken account of.

  • However, in all countries, the peaceful death is not thought in legal terms to include euthanasia.

Key terms1

Euthanasia: is inducing a painless death, by agreement and with compassion, to ease suffering. From the Greek meaning ‘Good Death’.

Active (direct) Euthanasia: carrying out some action to help someone to die.

Key terms

Voluntary euthanasia: helping a person who wishes to die to do so.

Involuntary Euthanasia: helping a person to die when they are unable to request this for themselves.

Living Will: a document that specifies an individual’s wishes regarding care and treatment if he or she becomes incapacitated, such as limiting life-support that would only prolong life

Passive euthanasia: not carrying out the actions which would prolong life.

The uk law


  • ACTIVE / DIRECT EUTHANASIA: anything that involves the administering of a treatment or drug in order to shorten or end a persons life is illegal. This is true even if they have given their consent to the death.

  • PASSIVE/ INDIRECT EUTHANASIA: withdrawing treatment from a person in order to bring about their death is legal and widely practised in Britain.

British law and murder

British law and murder

  • Murder, is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being with intent (or malice aforethought).

  • To murder somebody you must intend to kill them.

  • Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a person.

  • It is clearly murder under the current definition.

  • In order to legalise it we would have to define euthanasia so that it was considered legal killing, along with war.



  • Euthanasia is a criminal offence in virtually all countries, and it is strongly opposed by most governments and religious organisations.

  • In Holland, about a thousand assisted deaths take place each year, and organisations such as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) campaign for a similar practice to be available in the UK.

  • It is worth noting that the VES, along with most other pro-euthanasia groups, would never support ending someone’s life against that person’s will.



  • there are active and passive dimensions to the ethical debate.

  • If someone is terminally ill they may ask you not to intervene medically to help them and allow them to die sooner

  • (passive voluntary euthanasia)

  • or you may wish to do so after they have lost consciousness and basic brain functions

  • (passive involuntary euthanasia)



  • The person may ask you to give them medicines which will bring about their death

  • (active voluntary euthanasia)

  • or you may wish to do so once they have lost consciousness and basic brain functions

  • (active involuntary euthanasia)



  • The debate on euthanasia covers:

  • What is the responsibility of a doctor?

  • To kill or to preserve life?

  • Does a doctors responsibility of preservation of life extend to preserving quality of life?

  • Should a person have a right to self-determination and autonomy?

  • Is part of the ‘right to life’ the ‘right to die’?

  • Is there a similar ethical concern over involuntary euthanasia?

  • What is the religious view on euthanasia?



Abortion and euthanasia8

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective7

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the arguments for voluntary euthanasia.






Gregory E. Pence

Thomas More

JS. Mill

This lesson

This lesson:

  • Euthanasia is not murder

  • Euthanasia is merciful

  • Euthanasia gives people autonomy

  • Jack Kevorkian

  • Euthanasia goes on anyway

Homework mnemonic1



Why would someone want euthanasia

Why would someone want euthanasia?

Voluntary euthanasia

Voluntary euthanasia

  • There may be situations where people are in terrible pain or have such a profound sense of indignity because of their mental deterioration that they wish while they still have the chance to express a choice, to bring about death more quickly.

  • There are several arguments in favour of legal voluntary euthanasia.

For voluntary euthanasia is not murder

For – voluntary euthanasia is not murder

  • In his article “why physicians should aid the dying” Gregory E. Pence argues that killing humans who don't want to live is not wrong.

  • It isn't wrong to help the dying to die, because they are actually dying.

  • You are simply speeding up the process. This is therefore, not murder.

For voluntary euthanasia is merciful

For – voluntary euthanasia is merciful

  • Voluntary euthanasia shows mercy for those suffering with intolerable pain from an incurable disease.

  • The English humanist Thomas More argued in his famous 1516 book Utopia that when a patient suffers a ‘torturing and lingering pain, so that there is no hope, either of recovery or ease, (they may) choose rather to die, since they cannot live but in much misery’.

  • Voluntary euthanasia is a merciful opportunity to end needless suffering – one which we offer to animals and should offer to humans as well.

For voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy

For – voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy

  • Mill argues that if it doesn’t affect someone else’s, individuals should have full autonomy. (complete freedom)

  • “The only part of the conduct of any one, for which [a citizen] is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign”

  • We expect to have control over our bodies in matters of life, and it should be the same in matters of death.

For voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy1

For – voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy

  • The VES (voluntary euthanasia society) argues that every human being deserves respect and has the right to choose his or her own destiny, including how he or she lives and dies.

  • Controversial American doctor Jack Kevorkian has said ‘in my view the highest principle in medical ethics – in any kind of ethics – is personal autonomy, self-determination. What counts is what the patient wants and judges to be a benefit or a value in his or her own life. That’s primary’

Jack kevorkian

Kevorkian aka 'Dr Death' because he photographed the eyes of dying patients. Later in his career (starting in 1987) he advertised his services as a physician offering 'death counselling'. When terminally ill patients learned that he was helping people to die, more and more people came to him. Despite several failed court cases, Kevorkian helped over 130 people to die.

Kevorkian believed that helping people was not enough, and actually killed Thomas Youk, filmed himself doing so and recieving consent by the man. He was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison.

Jack Kevorkian

For voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy2

For – voluntary euthanasia gives people autonomy

Palliative care: the care of patients with a terminal illness, not with the intent of trying to cure them, but to relieve their symptoms.

  • Advocates of voluntary euthanasia argue that it should be an option for a competent adult, who is able and willing to make such a decision.

  • They argue that it should be on offer as one option among many, along with the kind of palliative care offered by hospitals and hospices.

  • Free choice should be given to everyone!

For euthanasia goes on anyway

For –euthanasia goes on anyway

  • In 1994 the British Medical Journal published a survey that showed some doctors already help patients to die.

  • Doctors can legally give pain relieving treatment in doses that will bring about people’s deaths more quickly and, in certain circumstances, such as in the case of the bread dead or comatose, they may also withdraw or withhold treatment even though a person will die if they do so.

  • What is this type of euthanasia called?

For euthanasia goes on anyway1

For –euthanasia goes on anyway

  • They cannot however, help someone to die at that person's request.

  • The VES holds that it would be more honest and much safer if voluntary euthanasia was legal and regulated.

  • They argue that there is no ethical difference between withdrawing treatment and delivery a lethal injection.

  • Is this true?

For voluntary euthanasia maintains the quality of life

For – voluntary euthanasia maintains the quality of life

  • Human beings should be able to maintain their dignity up until the ends of their lives.

  • This is not simply a matter of pain, but of self-respect.

  • If someone’s standard of living is such that they no longer want to live, then they should be able to end their life and, if necessary, be assisted in doing so.

  • What is more, the quality of life worth living is one that only they can define.

  • Having control over their life is a way of enhancing their human dignity.



  • Euthanasia is not murder

  • Euthanasia is merciful

  • Euthanasia gives people autonomy

  • Jack Kevorkian

  • Euthanasia goes on anyway

Abortion and euthanasia9

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective8

Learning objective

  • To know and understand the arguments against voluntary euthanasia.




Informed consent



Helga Kuhse

Arguments for voluntary euthanasia





You should EVALUATE the main points of view.

Give four arguments – two for and two against.

Make sure you explain each point fully, developing it with evidence and linking the paragraphs together to fully evaluate the point.

Include a person conclusion.

  • Euthanasia should be permitted as long as the person consents.

  • 15 marks

  • Article 41 and 42 will help from the reading pack.

Voluntary euthanasia1

Voluntary euthanasia

  • Voluntary euthanasia or assisted euthanasia is when a person asks to be helped to die.

  • Should we have the ability to control our own destinies, by being offered assistance to take our own lives when we judge that the quality of our lives has deteriorated to the point at which they are no longer worth living?

How can you be sure of motives

how can you be sure of motives?

  • When a person asks for death, can we be sure that the person isn't crying out in despair, rather than making a definitive decision?

  • In desperate moments, someone may feel that they want their life to end – that the pain is too great and life too agonising – but perhaps those moments will pass and they will be glad that no-one acted on their pleas.



  • Can doctors be sure that they know and understand all the facts?

  • Is it possible that they may fear a future which will not be realised?

  • Any euthanasia process would have to be able to establish, beyond any doubt, the true intentions of the patient who is requesting euthanasia and that the patient is fully aware of the situation.

  • The risk of misinformation or a failure to comprehend the situation leaves the patient vulnerable to a decision that he or she might not truly want to make.



  • You can never be 100% sure of a persons motives

  • They may be depressed or struggling and may not really be able to give the informed consent necessary to make the difficult decision about the end of their life.

What about mistakes

What about mistakes?

Is this fair? Should we not just safeguard against mistakes?

  • Suppose that someone chooses death because they have been diagnosed with a fatal, incurable and painful illness.

  • Then after the person has died, it becomes apparent the diagnosis, but can there always be medical certainty about what the conditions will entail and how long it will take to develop?

  • There is an area of doubt here that could lead to terrible mistakes.

  • Refusing to allow voluntary euthanasia safeguards us against this.

Abuse of the system

GLOVER Glover’s anti-euthanasia stance concentrates on the value of life. Glover uses the example in which there are two planets; on one a single vegetable grows and on the other there is no sign of life and no form of life can ever be achieved. We must destroy one planet. Those who chose to save the planet with the vegetable recognise that life has intrinsic value.

Abuse of the system

  • Would elderly relatives who think they are burdens to their families ask for voluntary euthanasia out of a sense of duty to the family?

  • Jonathan Glover 1977 notes that people who feel they are burdens on their families sometimes commit suicide.

  • On the other hand, could they be pressured into asking for assisted death by scheming relatives?

Abuse of the system1

Abuse of the system

  • The conviction of Harold Shipman for multiple murders – where he, as a GP, murdered dozens of elderly patients over a period of many years – highlights the power of doctors, especially over the elderly.

  • A voluntary euthanasia system could allow such people even more scope for murder, by manipulating patients and documentation.

Jack kevorkian1

Kevorkian aka 'Dr Death' because he photographed the eyes of dying patients. Later in his career (starting in 1987) he advertised his services as a physician offering 'death counselling'. When terminally ill patients learned that he was helping people to die, more and more people came to him. Despite several failed court cases, Kevorkian helped over 130 people to die.

Kevorkian believed that helping people was not enough, and actually killed Thomas Youk, filmed himself doing so and recieving consent by the man. He was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison.

Jack Kevorkian

Impact on the community

Impact on the community

  • What cultural effect might voluntary euthanasia have on society?

  • Might it lead to other forms of euthanasia being supported – ultimately concluding with the kinds of involuntary euthanasia carried out by the Nazis on the sick, the elderly and the disabled?

Impact on the community1

Impact on the community

  • Glover rejects this argument as unconvincing and Helga Kuhsehas observed that this has not happened in the Netherlands.

  • It is more likely that it might damage the care of patients who are dying.

  • Perhaps they would be put off by a perceived risk of an unwanted assisted death.

  • In order to stop the assisted dying of patients it would have to be severely legislated similar to the abortion laws giving a number of criteria you have to meet before having the act justified.

Impact on the community2

Impact on the community

  • While opposing voluntary euthanasia, people have developed caring and sensitive provision for the terminally ill within the hospice movement, but legalisation would affect the culture in which that approach to care has been developed.

  • If voluntary euthanasia were made legal, would people become concerned about visiting hospitals, fearful of what might happen?

Impact on the community3

Impact on the community

  • Ultimately, voluntary euthanasia, in its physician-assisted form, is not simply an individual matter.

  • It affects others and society as a whole – the doctor who assists, the nurses who are caring for the patient, the hospital in which it takes place and the wider community.

  • The argument of an individual’s right to die must be set against the interests of the community in which individuals exist.

  • Acceptance of the practice of killing in hospitals could reduce the respect for life that civilisations uphold now more than ever in terms of the human rights.



  • How can you be sure of a persons motives?

  • What about mistakes?

  • How can you prevent abuse of the system?

  • Impact on the community?

Abortion and euthanasia10

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective9

Learning objective

  • To know the issues of involuntary euthanasia.



Persistent vegetative state (PVS)







Involuntary euthanasia

Involuntary euthanasia

  • Voluntary euthanasia refers to situations where a person is able to make wishes known, perhaps at time or possibly by an advance directive.

  • However, there are other cases where a patient cannot let their wishes be known, such as when they are in a coma.

  • The withdrawal of treatment (passive) or the application of certain medicines (active) may bring about involuntary euthanasia.

  • Involuntary euthanasia means that it is compulsory and without the consent of the patient.

Tony bland

Tony bland

  • Tony bland was the victim of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which many football fans were crushed to death.

  • He survived but was left in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) in which it was thought he would never recover.

  • In this state the body can breathe and main organs function properly.

  • In Bland’s case he could open his eyes but did not respond to anything around him.

Tony bland1

Tony bland

  • He could not feed but could digest food so needed to have food and water provided through a feeding tube.

  • There was no cure for Tony’s condition but he was not dying.

  • The question, which eventually ended up in court, was whether or not it was right to remove artificial feeding and lead to death through starvation and dehydration.

  • This seems like a painful and cruel way if he was able to sense the pain although it was thought he would not.

Involuntary euthanasia1

Involuntary euthanasia

  • The 2005 mental capacity Act makes it clear that assisted food and fluids is a medical treatment which can be withdrawn.

  • This seems to take a step towards active involuntary euthanasia or even non-voluntary euthanasia.

  • The ethical challenge here is that there are instances where doctors are convinced that a person will never wake up from a coma, or has no capacity for higher life function, and yet can be sustained indefinitely.

  • Does it show more or less respect for the value of the human person to withdraw life-sustaining measures?

Involuntary euthanasia2

Involuntary euthanasia

  • Another area of controversy surrounds the care of severely disabled babies.

  • As medical advances improve, it is possible to keep alive more and more severely physically disabled babies.

  • Some argue that allowing a disabled baby to live is to disable a family.

  • In November 2006 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologogists urged health professionals to consider euthanasia for seriously disabled babies to spare the emotional burden of families bringing up the sickest of children.

Abortion and euthanasia


  • Others are concerned that the precedent of actively killing a baby or withdrawing treatment to bring about death much sooner cultivates a culture in which all disabled people are considered to be of less value.

  • Would disabled people lost their rights in a society where disabled babies are euthanized?

Examiners tip1

Examiners tip

  • The death of Tony Bland is an example of ‘passive euthanasia’, or ‘letting die’, which is often held up as morally better than active euthanasia. Is it better?

  • James Rachels argues that if you (passively) ‘let someone die’ by watching them drown, then your action is morally as bad as actively drowning that person.



Abortion and euthanasia11

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective10

Learning objective

  • To know the Catholic perspectives on euthanasia.









  • What is the religious view of euthanasia centred on?




Religious perspectives4

Religious perspectives

  • There are similarities between the religious approaches to euthanasia and abortion.

  • Many religious perspectives work from interpretation of sources and applying them to the issues at stake.

  • The most important thing to remember is that there is diversity both within and between religious traditions.

Christian perspectives

Christian perspectives

  • Roger Crook captures the Christian perspective on euthanasia by posing the question of how we care for the dying.

    • What do we do for the person who is comatose with no hope of recovery?

    • How do we care for the terminally ill person whose remaining days are increasingly, agonisingly painful?

  • The human being is not simply a biological entity but a person, in the image of God and Christ. Death marks the end of personhood in this life.

Christian perspectives general

Christian perspectives - general

  • Biblical teachings prohibit killing

  • The sixth commandment “you shall not murder” (exodus 20:13)

  • Jesus ministry was about healing. Providing care for the sick, needy and the weakest members of society.

  • Christians have traditionally considering taking one’s own life to be wrong.

Catholic life is sacred

Catholic – life is sacred

  • At the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Roman Catholic Church condemned crimes against life such as;

  • Murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful suicide

  • “life is sacred and a gift from God”

  • To take a life opposes God’s love for that person, and rejects the duty of a person to live life according to God’s plan.

Catholic life is sacred1

Catholic – life is sacred

The kind of autonomy that is argued for by JS Mill is rejected here.

We simply don’t have that freedom, because we are made by God for the purpose of loving God. God has created us for a purpose, and it is our duty to live and pursue that purpose.

  • In the same declaration they made it clear that it was wrong to ask someone for an assisted death.

  • And that an individual cannot consent to such as death: ‘For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life and an attack on humanity.’

Catholic the importance of suffering

Catholic – the importance of suffering

  • A distinct argument is made about suffering and its role in Christian theology.

  • Jesus died in pain on the cross, and human suffering at the end of life connects us to the suffering that Jesus felt.

  • This does not mean that Christians should refuse to take painkillers or should actively seek pain, but it does grant suffering the possibility of having a positive effect on the individual.

Is this a tough look argument?

Catholic the importance of suffering1

Catholic – the importance of suffering

  • It provides the chance that he or she may grow closer to God.

  • In an article on euthanasia Thomas Wood writes that while suffering can seem meaningless, is terrible and never sought, it is not the worst evil – it can be on occasion for spiritual growth and it can have moral effects on those in attendance.

  • It can have meaning in the context of a life lived in faith.

Catholics excessive treatment should be avoided

Catholics - Excessive treatment should be avoided

  • Burdensome excessive treatment, however, should be avoided.

  • Similar positions are held by other Churches.

  • Withdrawal of unduly burdensome treatment in cases where it would not lead to any improvement in the patient’s underlying condition and could not prevent death.

  • In such circumstances it may be morally responsible to withhold or withdraw treatment and allow death to occur.




  • Hans Kung (1928-) has stated:

  • “As a Christian and a theologian I am convinced that the all-merciful God, who has given men and women freedom and responsibility for their lives, has also left to dying people the responsibility for making a conscientious decision about the manner and time of their deaths”


When you die is an individual choice. God gave you the ability to choose and you should use that God given right. God is all-loving and will understand.



  • The human person is the image of God.

  • Bible teachings prohibit killing and promote healing although there are some exceptions in terms of self-sacrifice for others.

  • Catholic teaching opposes all euthanasia as it interferes with

    • God’s plan

    • The gospel is a gospel for life

    • Killing is an offense against the dignity of the human person

    • Sometimes suffering is for a purpose

    • However, excessive burdensome treatment is unnecessary



Abortion and euthanasia12

Abortion and euthanasia


Learning objective11

Learning objective

  • To know the Protestant perspectives on euthanasia.










  • Revise for the practice exam



  • What is the Catholic view of euthanasia?

Liberal protestants

Liberal protestants

  • The protestant Joesph Fletcher is an active advocate of the patient’s ‘right to die’ on the basis that Christian faith emphasises love for one’s fellow human being, and that death is not the end for Christians.

  • Acts of kindness may embrace euthanasia, for instance when a human being is dying in agony, as a response to human need.

  • Fletcher’s (1975) argument for euthanasia has four points.

Joesph fletcher


  • The quality of life is to be valued over biological life

  • Death is a friend to someone with a debilitating illness.

  • All medical interventions place human will against nature and extraordinary means.

  • Special equipment and unnecessary surgery are not morally required for a person who is terminally ill.

Joesph fletcher1


  • People are prepared to ‘face death and accept death a preferable to continuous suffering for the patient and the family’

  • There is no distinction between our response to a suffering animal or human.

  • There is no difference between passive and active euthanasia as the result is the same.

  • He extends his view of active euthanasia to very severely disabled children.

Situation ethics

Situation ethics

  • This is a Situationists argument. If you meet these criteria you provide the most loving thing by allowing them to die.

    • The quality of life is to be valued over biological life

    • Death is a friend to someone with a debilitating illness.

    • All medical interventions place human will against nature and extraordinary means.

    • Special equipment and unnecessary surgery are not morally required for a person who is terminally ill.

  • euthanasia in these situations is the most loving thing to do.

  • Conservative protestants

    Conservative protestants

    • A quite different conservative protestant approach is presented by Arthur Dyck (1975)

    • Dyck thinks an act of kindness can result in withdrawing treatment but not doing something actively to bring about death.

    • Permitting some acts of active euthanasia, such as in the case of severely disabled children seems to be creating a class of human beings who are treated as less valued.

    Conservative protestants1

    Conservative protestants

    • He argues that child a mentally retarded is not dying, is not in pain and cannot choose to die.

    • Since killing is generally wrong it should be kept to as narrow a range of exceptions as possible.

    • While mercy is a moral obligation, killing is never a mercy.

    Conservative protestants2

    Conservative protestants

    • The term mercy killing is a contradiction and when we use the term to justify the killing of the disabled or the mental incompetent, we fail to care for the most needy in the community, which is a fundamental moral duty.

    • Dyck’s view is in keeping with traditional Christian thought, and most Christian theologians, which holds that active, direct help in the taking of human life is prohibited.

    Conservative protestants3

    Conservative protestants

    • Whereas, voluntary euthanasia, self-willed by a rational, legally competent person, has been permitted by some theologians, active euthanasia in which the person plays no role, has been condemned by the majority of Christian thinkers.

    • The ethical approaches to the problem taken by Christians sometimes reflect a move from general principles to specific applications (the sanctity of life to the prohibition of euthanasia) and also at times to concern about the sinful nature of human beings and their unreliability at making good decisions through the use of ‘right reason’. (Vetachi)



    • Liberal protestants

      • argue that euthanasia can be an act of love as the quality matters as much as quantity, death is not the end and can be a friend to those suffering terribly.

    • Conservative protestants

      • Argue that while withdrawing treatment could be an act of kindness when death is inevitable and life is intolerable, it should only take place in exceptional cases and cannot include actively taking life



    Abortion and euthanasia13

    Abortion and euthanasia


    Learning objective12

    Learning objective

    • To consider if abortion OR euthanasia can ever be good?










    • Revise for the practice exam

    What is good for a person

    What is good for a person?



    • When say something is ‘good’ we are claiming that either:

    • There is something about a thing that makes it intrinsically positive. (Sanctity of life – claims that life is intrinsically good)

    • Or that by having or completing a thing will be positive for the thing enacting it.



    • Human goods are things that are good for a person.

    • They are positive for their lives

    • They compliment them or complete them and by acting them out will make your life better.

    Can death be a good

    Can death be a Good?

    • Abortion and euthanasia involve the termination of life.

    • Either a foetus or a person

    • Despite their ethical questionability there is room for discussing if they are or can ever be good (either intrinsically or for a person)

    The main question

    The main question

    • Making a decision about this rests on a clear criteria.

    • Whether you are:

    • a deontologist

    • Or a relativist

    The deontologist

    The deontologist

    • For the deontologist death – euthanasia or abortion can never be good because you would have to extend it to all circumstances.

    • Clearly abortion or euthanasia can not be GOOD is all circumstances as we could have serious abuses of the system and situations being justified which are grossly unethical.

    • Such as?

    The deontologist1

    The deontologist

    • Religious teachings frequently describe abortion and euthanasia as intrinsically evil in any situation regardless of circumstances.

    • The sanctity of life is often given a greater value than all other factors when making a moral decision.

    • It is one of those issues which in religious teaching seems to carry the equivalent to a trump card which counters every other condition.

    • If we think in absolute deontological terms then the act of killing seems evil, rather than ever being a good.

    The relativist

    The relativist

    • In some situations we make exceptions such as self defence where lethal force may be necessary, or in the case of war.

    • Because this is the case we should be able to ask then whether abortion or euthanasia can be considered as one of these exceptions.

    • There are many examples where we it seems clear than both euthanasia and abortion should be considered right.

    Abortion and euthanasia


    • Just because something is right, does that make it a good for human kind?

    • Can death ever be good for a human.

    • If we consider abortion the killing of an innocent being then even though it may be morally right to abort the foetus does that make it a good?

    • Something that is positive for a person?



    • How we decide if abortion or euthanasia is right depends as we said on our ethical stance.

    • Are we relativist or deontologists?

    • if we give moral value to the situation and the consequences then we might take a different moral view from the absolutist deontological view that abortion is always evil.

    Necessary evil

    Necessary evil

    • Perhaps abortion and euthanasia can be considered a ‘necessary evil’

    • One which is necessary in order to do good.

    • though for many religious perspectives, a necessary evil, is (or should be) an impossibility.

    • If death can ever be a good is a difficult question.

    • Surely, if you are saving life or upholding the quality of life then it is up the person involved and if they consider it ‘good for them’ then maybe it is a ‘good’.



    • When we say something is good it means it has either intrinsic goodness or is positive for a person.

    • Abortion and euthanasia cause death

    • Death is not usually considered a good

    • A deontologist would consider it evil especially the religious

    • A relativist would be able to consider it right but does that make it good?

    • Maybe it could be necessary evil?



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