Nowadays euthanasia has the special sense of taking deliberate
steps to end human life, usually with the intention of avoiding
extreme pain, distress or helplessness.
So what is the Methodist Church's view?
The Methodist Church believes that a Biblical and ethical
approach to the death event makes euthanasia, as understood by its
supporters, both inappropriate and irrelevant.
Why do some people call for euthanasia?
Modern medicine is enabling people to live longer and has
increased the range of drugs available for treatment and pain
relief. However it has also increased public awareness of the
anguish that a long, painful or incapacitating terminal illness may
cause to the patient and their families. Some argue that
individuals have the right to choose the time and circumstances of
their death, and also that it may be compassionate to end a
patient's life even if they are not in a position to request or
give consent to medically-induced death.
How exactly does the Methodist Church understand
The 1974 Statement clearly identifies two categories where
medical treatment may hasten death, but should not be identified
- Where doctors decide to use drugs for pain-relief for a patient
with a terminal illness, which may have the side effect of
- Where a doctor advises against medical intervention which may
lengthen the patient's lifespan, but the patient will not be able
to enjoy or even respond to their environment - such as a child
born with a particularly severe abnormality or a victim of an
accident causing irreversible brain damage. The decision not to
intervene is compassionate and responsible. It is not
Advocates of euthanasia tend to go much further than this in
pressing for laws to permit the deliberate ending of life when the
patient has requested this and a medical crisis justifies it.
What are the arguments against legalising
The opposition to voluntary euthanasia is partly based on the
practical difficulties that would be faced by doctors and other
medical staff. Who would make the decisions? What would the impact
be on staff working in the hospital of knowing that euthanasia was
administered there? These practical problems, and their
implications for relationships between professional staff, patients
and close relatives are obvious. For these and other connected
reasons, the medical professional bodies are largely opposed to
legalising of euthanasia, although there is not a consensus among
individual medical professionals.
There is also the difficulty of framing legislation in such a way
as to exclude its misuse, allowing relatives to short circuit the
natural life span of a difficult individual, or putting pressure on
someone who feels guilty about the burden they are putting on their
But isn't it compassionate in some extreme
The prospect of incurable illness and end of life suffering may
cause anxiety, not only to the patient and their family, but also
to medical professionals who may have to make difficult decisions
without the full consent or awareness of the patient and at a
traumatic time. If it were impossible in any other way to
deal with the problems of suffering and distress, the legalisation
of euthanasia might have to be considered. There is, however, a new
sense of urgency in developing better methods of caring for the
dying, which includes a greater emphasis on palliative care coupled
with an understanding of the needs of the whole person.
Giving the gift of life?
There are also concerns about both the cost and the ultimate
value of maintaining a patient's life on a life support machine, as
well as questions about the diagnosis of death. The Methodist
Church, in partnership with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and
the United Reformed Church, produced a guide to organ donation and
the pending legal changes in Wales, called Sharing the Gift of Life which discusses
many of these issues.
What guidance can we get from Bible?
The Christian conviction is that 'the life of men and women
bears the stamp of God who "made man in his own image" (Genesis
1:27). This is the source of our basic dignity and it is the
biblical basis for the sanctity of human life.' What God has given,
we should not take away. Death is an event marking a transition
rather than a terminus. We are called to use all God's gifts
responsibly and to find in every situation the way of compassion.
This compassion can be shown in energetically developing better
methods of care for the dying. The hospice movement has made an
invaluable contribution here.
Statement on Euthanasia, 1974;
'Shadows - A Study Pack on Euthanasia', 1994 (Methodist Church /
Sharing the Gift of Life, 2014
For further information
The first point of contact is your local
church where the minister can discuss your questions with