Home » Healthcare and Medicine » Nursing » CASE STUDY OF DEATH AND DYING

CASE STUDY OF DEATH AND DYING

   Send article as PDF   

 

               Introduction

 

Within the healthcare practice medical practitioners, nurses and all other member of staff get to meet and interact with all kinds of people who have different religious beliefs and practices. It is normally an advantage to have some knowledge and accept the diversity of faith and their expressions. George Malady is a successful attorney in his mid-fifties and also teaches in a local university law school in Oregon and regularly coaches his son’s basketball team. He has recently contracted ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) which is a degenerative disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and has no cure. ALS is progressive and leads to loss of the ability to speak, move, eat and breathe. The life expectancy is three to five years but if lucky ten years or more. George dreads being a burden to his family by being unable to function on his own to the extent he will be a prisoner in his own body which he finds loss of dignity and power. He is inquiring the possibility of voluntary euthanasia so as to end his life in a painless manner. The action would ideally be termed as suicide and against the doctors ethical and moral code of operation under which they swore and took an oath to take maximum care of patients at all times. We shall use George’s story to carry out an ethical analysis in this case of life and death decisions based on Christianity and Buddhism religious faiths.

James Sire defines the worldview as the basic constitution that an individual commits their heart to as a foundation on which they live and carry out all activities on. In Christianity the prime reality is God and God is omnipresent. The nature of the world around us according to Christianity is that the world was created by God. It is chaotic but human beings are meant to live in love, peace and harmony. Relationships between people are governed by the Ten Commandments amongst other laws in the Bible. In Christianity a human being is a person whom God created in his own image. Christians believe there is life after death. According to the Bible says that from dust the human body form was created and to dust it shall return. The spirit shall sleep and rest until the day of resurrection. It is possible to know things because humans have been made in the image of God. God is the creator of heaven and earth and all the things in it hence he knows everything (Beckwith et.al, 2009). Humans strive to discover things and to know more, learn more in order to survive better and longer. We know what is right and what is wrong by what we learn from childhood. Christians are made in the image of God so to some extent have an idea of what is right and what is wrong but the Bible is used as a tool to teach them how to live with each other and a guidance of what should and should not be done. The Bible is the word of God and should be obeyed hence everything opposed to the Bible teachings is wrong. Those who obey and live by the bible go to heaven and those who don’t go to hell.  The purpose of Human history is to study their origin and their purpose according to Gods will and according to the teachings in the Bible. They can study how they evolved and why Jesus came to earth as well as what is expected of them today.

The Buddhist prime reality is that their faith was founded by Buddha but they do not believe in an external concept of God or his presence. They however believe there are supernatural beings or gods. They believe that the reality cannot be defined because it extends way beyond what humans can see or perceive. The nature of the world according to Buddhism is that it is an illusion in that the true nature of the world is not as the humans see or perceive it. Thy world is cyclical with no end and is part of a wheel of suffering in which humans are attached. Human beings are an expression of an external force working its way to oneness with the cosmos through a lot of suffering which they try to escape from daily. Buddhists believe that after death each life reincarnates into another form such as an animal. The form in which they become depends on how they spent their life when alive (Josephson & Peteet 2008). They say that knowledge is brought about by life experiences in accordance with the illusions each person sees in this world. It may not be the reality as nothing always seems as it appears. In Buddhism the Cosmos is always perfectly right. The morals of good and evil cannot be defined because they are also an illusion. Everybody perceives things differently but they believe in good and bad karma as the way cosmos operates. Good Karma takes them closer to Nirvana. Since to Buddhists time is an illusion and cosmos exists only in eternity, then time is just a cycle of movement and reality. Each living thing continues to live through life and rebirth as people are attached to the world and when they finally achieve their life’s desires Nirvana is also achieved.

In Christianity, the Bible teaches that every life is a gift from God and is valuable from conception until its natural end. God created each person in his own likeness and image. The Bible in Proverbs chapter twenty two and Romans chapter nine teaches that to some comes the blessing of wealth, health, prosperity and popularity but to others the burdens of illness, handicap and hardship. In most cases there is a blend of blessings and hardships. In George’s case he was blessed with health, wealth, prosperity and a family, then he got ill, not of his will but of the will of God. To God those are earthly possessions and they are not as important as seeking his kingdom in heaven. God puts each person in the world for a purpose and when that purpose is over he takes away his gift of life (Melick & Melick 2010). Nobody knows their purpose put lives to find it and accomplish it hence nobody knows their time of death. The Bible says that a person has a right to choose treatment for himself in line with God’s will but we will not use our Christian freedom to end God’s gift of life because we judge the quality to be poor. Christians should not fear death because they know what is ahead hence George should do the same. Jesus also suffered in pain while he was being beaten and taken to be crucified. Christians should not fear pain but bear it and have faith in God until the end. The Bible in the book of Romans says that we can face burdens of life trusting that even harsh things are for our good. If it seems clear that God is taking back his gift of life, we will not fight his will with medication, treatment or machines. George should not challenge Gods will by taking his own life. He should wait for his will to be done as Gods time is always the best. He has given George the opportunity to say goodbye to his loved ones both friends and family and he should accept that as a blessing not a curse. While George faces the tough decisions of life and death he should be assured that with Christ as his guide and with faith or trust in his heart he cannot be better equipped than God for what lies ahead of him. Christianity is therefore against his option for euthanasia.

Buddhists also value the sanctity for life for it is a rare privilege with special responsibilities. The value of a single day of life exceeds all treasures and the value of each life is a manifestation of a universal life force. The Nirvana Sutra states that it is rare to be born a human being. The number of those endowed with human life is as small as the amount of earth one can place on a fingernail (Hurvitz & Teiser 2009). The uniqueness of one’s life is determined by the choices they make while living. George was a successful advocate a wonderful father who coached in his son’s basketball team and also a teacher at the University of Oregon. He seemed to have a full and happy life. Buddhists believe in Karma hence people choose to act good or evil in order to reap help or harm. Humans are able to choose a path of self-perfection by making the choice to be creative in order to develop and grow. Everyone has a mission, a unique role to play in the world, unique things to offer and achieve after which they reach Nirvana. Buddhists also believe that life and its cycle is all about suffering. In the first Sutta, it talks of the noble truth of suffering whereby in birth we suffer, in illness we suffer, in death we suffer, union with what is displeasing is suffering, separation from what is pleasing is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering, to part with what we have and want is suffering. Since George is a good man his state of illness could be a positive way of purifying past karma. There is no possible way to escape death and nobody ever has hence each moment brings us closer to the end of life’s cycle and it is untimely. Worldly possessions cannot help in any way. George wants to opt for euthanasia so as to end his suffering so that he will not have to undergo a slow and painful death. In Buddhism death does not end suffering as it would only be the beginning of another cycle of life and suffering only in a different form. In the Buddhist cycle of the four noble truths, life is full of dissatisfaction in birth, ageing, illness and death. Buddha taught that the end to a dissatisfactory life is possible with the Noble Eightfold Path (Parboteeah & Cullen 2009). Neither life nor death is permanent so it won’t help George to end his life. George should complete his karma related retribution so as to live a better life in his rebirth. So Buddhists also do not support George taking his own life.

Both the Christianity and Buddhist views on the value of life do not advocate for euthanasia (King, 2013). I also do not support George in wanting to make that cowardly option. He may feel he shall be burden to his family and drain them emotionally, physically and financially but it is not his place to decide when he shall die. What he could do is accept the ALS with all its conditions and take the opportunity to do everything he ever wanted to do in this world before he dies. He could spend quality time with his friends and family, write or amend his will, buy property that he wanted to secure his families future amongst other things. Both Christians and Buddhists believe that everybody in this world has a purpose. Everybody is unique in their own way with different talents, cognitive abilities and emotions. George should make the most of the years he has left and probably God or Karma would give him a longer less painful life even with ALS. History proves that there are people who have lived with ALS for over ten years. A lot can be achieved in that time. Probably it is a wakeup call for George to secure his families future better than he had before or to give back to society in a way that he had not done before. It could just be a sign that he needs to do things differently. Nobody knows when they will die and how they will die hence every day is a blessing. ALS may not even be the way George will die. He may never even suffer the worst of the symptoms and side effects of ALS as he may die before that in another painless way. He should therefore not rush to make decisions by opting for euthanasia. He should let God or karma have his way and embrace the situation as is and have an optimistic attitude that all will be well and that he may never be a slave to his own body as he fears shall be the case.

Scroll to Top