Nov 3, 2008

Church versus State on a Matter of Life & Death

ST Nov 3, 2008
Euthanasia is immoral
Catholic Church condemns practice and urges doctors to reject it as it 'violates medical ethics'.
By Lim Wei Chean

THE head of Singapore's Catholic Church yesterday publicly condemned euthanasia, a topic that has grabbed headlines in recent weeks as the Government considers changes to the laws that govern dying.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia wrote a letter on mercy killings that was read out during Sunday services at the country's 30-plus Catholic churches.

In it, he underlined the Church's views on death, describing euthanasia as 'immoral' and also calling on doctors to reject the practice.

'One cannot choose death and ask to be killed. When they do this, they are not only
committing the crime of suicide, but also compounding it by making another person a partner in a crime,' he wrote.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan discussed the issue of euthanasia last month after it was raised in the press.

The Government has not proposed legalising the practice, but has broached the idea of making changes to the Advance Medical Directive, or living will. The document instructs doctors not to artificially prolong the life of a terminally-ill patient with machines. The changes would make it easier for Singaporeans to turn down that care.

Opponents say that is one step on the slippery slope to euthanasia, which the Catholic Church has long considered taboo alongside other controversial practices like abortion.

Archbishop Chia condemned mercy killings in his letter, which was read out All Souls' Day, the annual day of remembering the dead.
This would be rather interesting to watch. My own view? The Catholics can do whatever they like among themselves, but they should leave the non-Catholics out of it.

Of course, in reality, the Catholics will probably seek to block the passing of any new law in Singapore that makes euthanasia more possible for people in general (not just Catholics).

I wonder how many Catholics we have, among our Members of Parliament.

25 comments:

The said...

/// The Catholics can do whatever they like among themselves, but they should leave the non-Catholics out of it. ///

Spot on.

Ditto on the Catholic Church's stance on contraception and abortion.

porridgewithoutsalt said...

i'm of the view that the Catholics have the right to express their opinion and even campaign for the changes (or in this case, lack of change) that they wish to see.

similarly, advocates of DNRs, livings wills and euthanasia have the right to champion their cause and defend it in the face of dissenting views. that, in my view, is the premise of freedom of expression.

it is the state's duty and responsibility to make the final decision and keep religion and state affairs seperate.

mathialee said...

Last month, Mr Khaw Boon Wan asked: 'Imagine that your TV is paid for by your Government or employer, as a gift.

'Would you just settle for a 20-inch ordinary TV, or would you go for the top-end home cinema system, complete with karaoke and flat-screen LED monitor?'

But this is what is happening in health care, he said, adding that 'gross abuses and over-consumption will have to be paid for, by all citizens, through higher taxes'.


If your child's life depended on a medical drug to save him from death, would you go for a "20-inch ordinary" type of drug, or would you go all out to get him that "top-end home cinema system, complete with karaoke and flat-screen LED monitor" type of drug?

Mr Khaw is an engineer by training, and he is applying the economic principles of engineering to health-care. When you're buying a TV, or buying a machine, you are balancing the economic value of your entertainment or machine productivity against the price you fork out. When the cost of repair exceeds the value it generates, you toss it out.

Health-care is totally different. How do you balance the value of a human life against a monetary price? When the state prevents people from getting more expensive healthcare by curbing subsidies, this is exactly what the state is doing. By legalising euthanasia, the state is sending out the message, 'When the cost of repairing you exceeds the value you generate, you toss yourself out"


I am not a Catholic, and there are issues which I disagree with them, issues which I think they should practise but not impose on the larger public.

In the issue of legalised euthanasia however, we should really look at what the state is proposing. The state is trying to cut down on health and medical expenditure, by suggesting that "dying" should be one of the options to be considered. How far would the state subsidise your medical treatments before it deems that it is most cost effective of you to die than continue searching for a cure? This is a question we have to ask before agreeing to legalised euthanasia.

Let's remember, there is a difference between euthanasia, the private individual's decision, verus LEGALISED euthanasia, which we all must take a public stand on

Dag said...

I'm not sure I'm getting the Archbishop's logic. People should not choose death because suicide is a crime? But isn't the issue whether euthanasia should be legalised in the first place? If assisted suicide is no longer a crime, why shouldn't people be able to choose death then?

The Archbishop should not hide behind the excuse that "it is a crime" but state his real reasons for opposing euthanasia. If it stems purely from Catholic religious beliefs, then why should non-Catholics be bound by it?

mathialee said...

This issue is not about who said it and therefore whether people outside that group should be bound by it. We have to think about what legalised euthanasia means for us, individuals, irregardless of religion.

Legalised euthanasia is not just society’s collective position on euthanasia; it is also society’s collective position on healthcare. Should healthcare do everything to restore a person to health, or should healthcare do what is necessary to restore a person to health, for as long as it is economically viable? This is the crux of the issue, when the State begins to talk about the overwhelming cost of medical treatments, borne either by the state or the family. The next question, if you support legalized euthanasia, would of course be, how do you define the point where it is no longer economically viable for you to pursue healthcare?


Privately, many individuals and families already make this decision, when they decide whether or not to pursue medical treatment. That is an internal decision which is not feasible for the State to police or enforce, hence quite irrelevant to legislature. It is when the State agrees that economic viability should become a factor in public healthcare policy, that the issue of legalized euthanasia becomes very relevant. It affects how medical subsidies are given, it affects how the State pressures doctors to make recommendations to patients, it affects what kind of treatments the State chooses to make available to the masses.



I’m not sure if this is already happening anyway, at least not with critical end-of-life situations. However, with Cervical Cancer, we see that the State is already factoring in economic viability. It actively promotes regular Pap Smear screening for early detection of Cervical Cancer, which has a very good prognosis. But it does not promote, nor does it SUBSIDISE the cost of vaccines preventing cervical cancer, which currently costs SGD$700. To the state, when controlling the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer, spending $700 on each female is far less cost effective than spending much less on subsidized Pap Smears. However, to each individual female, the cost of getting cancer, and then doing something about it, is far most costly than getting a vaccine. But the average Singaporean female does not know about this and takes the government’s advice for everything.

SR said...

Euthanasia is a tricky subject, as it evokes great emotions, amongst the religious and non-religious alike. Although it certainly makes no sense to prolong a life that is already more about pain or nothingness than anything else.

Nobody would want to picket for euthanasia as it would make you look so cold and heartless. So it's not exactly about freedom of speech. Even if you're free to declare that you support euthanasia, you might not want to do so for fear of being socially ostracised for adopting such a radical view.

Benjamin said...

Let's look at things in perspective. The Archbishop's letter was addressed to the Catholics, and it is meant to provide guidance to Catholics in this complex issue and state what the Church's stand is. If you read the letter, it does not even purport to impose that view or teaching on the non-Catholics. Just because it is reported in the newspapers does not make it a campaign. If we are to live in a plural society, it is only fair that views of some sectors are expressed accurately and objectively.

Why do we even begin to project that the Catholics are going to impose that teaching on others?

There are some valid arguments in the teaching. Keep an open mind.

Benjamin said...

Let's look at things in perspective. The Archbishop's letter was addressed to the Catholics, and it is meant to provide guidance to Catholics in this complex issue and state what the Church's stand is. If you read the letter, it does not even purport to impose that view or teaching on the non-Catholics. Just because it is reported in the newspapers does not make it a campaign. If we are to live in a plural society, it is only fair that views of some sectors are expressed accurately and objectively.

Why do we even begin to project that the Catholics are going to impose that teaching on others?

There are some valid arguments in the teaching. Keep an open mind.

Mockingbird said...

Our Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo is a Roman Catholic.

Mockingbird said...

If i'm a vegetable with no chance of recovery, i would rather ask the doctor to serve me a dose of lethal injection so that i can stop being a burden to my family.

SR said...

"If i'm a vegetable with no chance of recovery, i would rather ask the doctor to serve me a dose of lethal injection so that i can stop being a burden to my family."

Let's extrapolate further. What if you were not a vegetable, but someone who feels that life is no longer worth the living for you.

Would you ask for lethal injection as well?

This may seem extreme, but isn't it logical and rational?

hojiber said...

Wang, you go see who never turn up for the casino vote loh. They all not there.

young-pap said...

Keep your bible off my penis

Jon said...

Morality rest on the bedrock of a preconception of what constitutes right/wrong, which is commonly derived from religion(s).

So a person's perception largely depends on his/her beliefs (or the lack of).

This wasn't a problem in the past as society was largely homogeneous and authority unquestioned. e.g. Pope decrees, Priests dispense, People digest. Life was simple.

Modern society is made up of constituted fragments, with Government the glue that holds.

Catholics have every right to expressions of their beliefs, for otherwise the salt will lose its saltiness. So too advocate of euthanasia.

So it goes to the state to find common ground, a suitable glue that will still hold the fragments together.

Fighting fit said...

I think the Catholic Church is not alone in this stand. Christians in general believe that life is from God and it is His to take away. This is an issue that will affect the society and its fabric. I don't see why Church should not have the right to state its views, if we can all debate it here and everywhere. When the IRs were approved, the churches in Singapore all had something to say and that was No to Gambling.

I think all those who are for euthanasia have not faced the situation where someone close to them is teetering on the edge of death. And then that question is presented to them, Will you allow the life support system to be unplugged, sir?

lobo said...

@sr

If you are NOT a vegetable, then you can decide for yourself. Euthanasia is for YOU to decide for YOURSELF. Only when you are so far out of it, do other decide for you.
which part do you not understand about this?
How is this even as extrapolation??

Mr Wang Says So said...

The question is not quite so simple. Alex Au (Yawning Bread) has previously examined it in quite some detail.

Here's one difficulty of religion entering into this kind of debate. The religious followers may feel very free to express their views. However, there are restrictions on the non-believers on how they may express their contrary views.

For example, a Christian may point at specific verses in the Bible, and say that because Jesus said THIS; or Moses did THAT; or John said THIS; or because THIS happened in the city of Sodom, or THAT event was reported in the Bible to have happened ....

therefore society should take a certain view on euthanasia / abortion / contraception / marriage / lepers / homosexuality / death penalty / sex education / gambling / other religions / the teaching of Darwinian evolution in school . the kind of TV programmes permissible ... etc etc.

HOWEVER, if a non-Christian were to say:

"Actually, I think what Jesus said was very stupid, we shouldn't follow it" or

"Who cares what Moses did, that was thousands of years ago, totally irrelevant" or

"I have quite a different interpretation of what the Sodom saga was all about" or

"We must use our common sense. How can the earth be literally created in seven days"

or

"That was ridiculous ... I don't believe that such a "miracle" could have happened. I can't believe our national policies today are being shaped by these superstitious tales ..."


.... then this chap (even if he genuinely holds those views and isn't trying to be mischevious or malicious) runs the risk of getting smacked down by the Sedition Act, the Penal Code, the Internal Security Act etc.

In other words, it's all very well to say that since we respect the freedom of speech, religious believers should be allowed to say what they like.

The question is - whether we will allow non-religious believers, or people who believe in OTHER religions, to equally say what they like? Even when those views run directly against the beliefs of the religious believers?

If we don't allow this, then will the state and its policies / laws / institutions become unduly shaped by whichever religion (not necessarily Christianity) has followers who make the most public noise on any given issue?

SR said...

Lobo,

Euthanasia means "good death", i.e. ending life in a painless manner.

So I'm just extending the argument, for the sake of discussion, as to whether a person who is not a vegetable should be allowed to end their life in a painless way as well, if say half of his whole body is paralysed.

Mr Wang,

Totally agree with you that the religious can cloak their opinions behind religiousity knowing they can never be attacked thanks to the various laws.

The non-religious have no laws to protect themselves and will always be vulnerable if they object to the religious views as an individual.

Perhpaps they should organise themselves so that they can be heard as a group too.

kein said...

Probably too hard to organise the non-religious, since everyone would have differing views on the matter.

Not as simple as "If you're not with us, you're the enemy" kind of thing isn't it?

That being said, I signed up for the Adv Medical Directive years ago, and is that not an expression of free choice? The option to let go.

Second mockingbird's view, and the fact that I wouldn't want to continue surviving via a bundle of tubes just for the sake of existing as a lifeform.

Fighting fit said...

I disagree with those who said the followers of a religion can cloak their opinions behind their religion.

I assume you are pointing to the Catholic Church for stating its stand. The church is stating its stand based on the teachings in the Bible. I don't think it is an opinion. There are many things that are quite clear in the Bible--"Thou shalt not kill" is one of them.

When you say you don't want your pain and suffering to be prolonged if you become terminally ill or incapable of making that decision, someone has to do something to let you depart from this world. That act or that deed is killing.

Daniel Ling said...

Hi, after reading Ms Mathia's comments and her post on her blog, actually there's another angle.

basically gov do not wan to reduce the price of medical
and do not intend to subsidy.
but at the same time they do not wan to be label cruel when pple with these problems and no money to life support their family members.
thus the legal option so tat the rich can continue to life support, the middle rich can become poor using life support and the poor can just give up.
and no one can complain tat they dun ve a choice.

Additionally once LEGALISED Euthanasia, there will be high chance of it being abuse (Mathia's Opinion) as it seems tat the family member can decide on the behalf of the person whose terminally ill.

Personally i'm glad for having AMD so as i can prevent myself from ever becoming a burden to my family. Though my family may not think so but i surely do not wish tat to happen.

But with LEGALISED Euthanasia, will all families think the same way? tat the member with the terminal illness is not a burden? This is where abuse may come in.

Anyway i understand tat even without LEGALISED Euthanasia, we can still choose to reject treatment and die and tat the law is unable to stop us? (Correct me if i'm wrong pls)

PS: If gov can just be nice and provide cheaper alternatives, that would be great. But maybe there r deeper reasons y it can't be done. =(

Mr Wang Says So said...

" There are many things that are quite clear in the Bible--"Thou shalt not kill" is one of them."

---

In fact, when I previously discussed the death penalty on my blog, a Christian argued in favour of the death penalty by citing verses in Leviticus. LOL

SR said...

FF:
"I disagree with those who said the followers of a religion can cloak their opinions behind their religion.
I assume you are pointing to the Catholic Church for stating its stand. The church is stating its stand based on the teachings in the Bible. I don't think it is an opinion. There are many things that are quite clear in the Bible--"

SR: I can agree with you that pious followers of the bible are constrained by what they believe. I totally believe that. I also believe that a normal pious follower would find no necessity and even "sinful" to impose thier "righteousness" onto others. Perhaps the leader of the Catholic Church did not mean to do so when he made that announcement to all the catholic churches, but it's the (perhaps?) unintended consequence after it's being reported in the newspapers as well.

FF:
["Thou shalt not kill" is one of them.
When you say you don't want your pain and suffering to be prolonged if you become terminally ill or incapable of making that decision, someone has to do something to let you depart from this world. That act or that deed is killing.

SR: I can agree that it is some sort of killing. It all depends on how you define it. There are many instances of killing in the bible as well. Abraham was about to "kill" his son when God stopped him. Many Amalekites were "killed" by the Israelites.

Many chickens were "killed" to satisfy KFC customers. To vegetarian Buddhists, killing a chicken is still killing. And as Mr Wang has mentioned, capital punishment is a form of killing as well.

And in a war, many "enemies" are being "killed" as well. No wonder some cults do not believe in national service. It's primary purpose is to train Singaporeans to "kill". Although it's cloaked in nice sounding terms like "defence", "national service", etc.

jean said...

Knowing the government's 'pattern', i think they'll introduce legalized euthanasia eventually. MONEY TALKS in Singapore INC!

Even though i'm a christian, i long given up trying to go to any churches here in Singapore. The level of stupidity is shocking.

Anonymous said...

"I assume you are pointing to the Catholic Church for stating its stand. The church is stating its stand based on the teachings in the Bible. I don't think it is an opinion. "

Believing that the Bible is correct is an opinion.