The term “euthanasia” means any action committed or omitted for the purpose of causing or hastening the death of a human being after birth, usually for the alleged purpose of ending the person’s suffering. The Vatican’s Declaration on Euthanasia states, “By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated.”
There is no escaping pain in this life. Despite its inevitability, modern society struggles against pain in its futile attempts to ban it from our lives. Even more fundamentally, we seem to have forgotten that we possess immortal souls made in the image of God ― and the possession of a soul, renders us capable of benefiting from suffering.
Euthanasia causes or hastens a person’s death; therefore, according to the Catechism, euthanasia is “morally unacceptable.” God has a plan for every single one of us, and our lives belong to Him. We do not choose the day we are born, and we should not choose the day we leave this world. If we interfere with God’s plans for our lives, we begin a slippery slope that leads to worse evils.
Physician-assisted suicide is an important topic in the debates regarding life and death. Many people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness want to be “put out of their misery.” But as is always the case in ethical issues regarding human life, there are key notions and distinctions which must be understood and there is in the end only one acceptable decision: life.
Organ donation can certainly be a supreme act of generosity. Pope John Paul II endorsed organ transplantation in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae as a way to build up an “authentic culture of life.” However, Pope John Paul II was also careful to insist that this lifesaving technology must be governed by critical ethical principles in order to fulfill its life affirming potential.