End Of Life And Christian Love

.. able aim. On the basis of this aim vs. result framework, questions concerning the withdrawal of food and drink are also easily addressed. Problems arise in some of the justification used for performing this action.

It is not possible to, when withdrawing food from the permanently unconscious person, properly claim that our intention is to cease useless treatment for a dying patient. These patients are not dying, and we cease no treatment for a dying patient. These patients are not dying, and we cease no treatment aimed at disease; rather, we withdraw the nourishment that sustains all human beings whether healthy or ill, and we do so when the only result of our action can be death. At what, other than that death, could we be aiming? (Meilaender 105) The result of this action may be viewed as beneficial by others. It is conceivable that supporters might make the claim that ending the life of a person in this situation is another example of alleviating prolonged suffering. However, once again, a beneficial result must not be viewed in a type of consequentialist interpretation.

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Again, the aim of the action is to bring about death. We have previously established that it is the aim of an action which provides morality to it. Therefore, in these situations, aim supercedes the result. When pondering the aim of an action, the inclination may arise to include the motive of the action. Initially, this may seem beneficial, but the inclusion of motive brings the potential for subsequent clouding of the issue. “One might think that Christian emphasis on the overriding importance of love as a motive would suggest that whatever was done out of love was right” (Meilaender 86).

However, this clearly cannot be the case. A motive of love might drive someone to act to relieve the suffering of another. In this instance, the result of the action, relief of suffering is good. Furthermore, the motive of love is also positive. Still, though, if this result, even while intended positively, is achieved through a negative aim, all positives are overridden.

As has been stated before, no negative aim can possibly be made morally permissible simply on the basis of positive results. To this we shall now add, no negative aim can possibly become morally allowable because of positive motive. By eliminating from consideration this condition of motive, we have affirmed the notion that the morality of an action is determined by its aim. We shall move now to another important aspect of Christian love. “Barth writes that human life must always be regarded as a divine act of trust” (Meilaender 86).

If this is taken to be true, human life is a gift. Because of this status as a gift, a degree of respect should be invoked. But, this gift of life is not greater than all else. Limits are present. It is the responsibility of humanity to live within these limits.

This, then, presents a framework for the obedience of humanity to God. Because of the respect for this gift of life, humanity must respect and obey the limits of this gift set forth by God. Examples of Christs own obedience abound. Philippians 2 mentions the obedience of Christ to the will of the father. This is an important model for the whole of humanity. “Jesus goes to the cross in the name of obedience and his Father.

We need not glorify or seek suffering, but we must be struck by the fact that a human being who is a willing sufferer stands squarely in the center of Christian piety” (Meilaender 88). This is an important consideration to be made. Suffering is a part of the human condition, and, as such, should not be viewed as entirely negative. This quality of suffering is vividly outlined in “Euthanasia,” a Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, written by Pope John Paul II on May 5, 1980. Just as life is a true gift from God, it can also be declared that death is a true gift from God.

While death, or any suffering associated with it, is undesirable to the human mind, it is a strong opportunity to grow closer to Christ. “As St. Paul says, while we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as His servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lords” (John Paul II 651). Suffering is a cross for humanity to bear, with rewards to follow after this life.

“Suffering, especially in the final moments of life, has a special place in Gods plan of salvation. It is sharing in the passion of Christ and unites the person with the redemptive sacrifice which Christ offered in obedience to the Fathers will” (John Paul II 652-653). Humans must live their lives according to Gods plan. Any action taken against the gift of life must be seen as a complete rejection of Gods supremacy and vision. If this occurs, there has been a great failure to follow Christs example of Obedience to the will of God.

The desire to avoid suffering is common among all people. Fear of pain and suffering is natural. Christianity is not attempting to claim that we should have no fear of pain and suffering, or that we should seek it out. “The Christian mind has certainly not recommended that we seek suffering or call it an unqualified good, but it is an evil that, when endured faithfully, can be redemptive” (Meilaender 90). Once we have accepted the potential for redemptive value in suffering, our approach to dealing with it is altered. Realizing that suffering is important, the goal of love shifts from attempting to alleviate suffering. There should be a movement from minimizing suffering to maximizing love and care (Meilaender 90).

In situations such as these, sometimes there is nothing more that can be done than to try to empathize with the patient, to suffer along with the sufferer. What exactly do we find ourselves left with? We have now achieved an understanding that issues at the end of life cannot be fully understood without the concept of Christian love. It is possible for us to declare, as Meilaender does, that “love could never euthanatize” (92). Some might argue that this point is inherently flawed.