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A religious response to the paradox of euthanasia and the sanctity of life

Olumuyiwa Olusesan Familusi


The sacredness that is attached to human life in both social and religious spheres forbids its termination at will; hence, the entrenchment of right to life in the constitutions and other legal documents of countries in the world. Given this, murder attracts capital punishment. In spite of this understanding, some lives are perceived to be miserable and are thus not worth living. This is what led to the idea of euthanasia or mercy killing, which has generated much controversy amongst scholars in different fields of study like law and medicine, with no agreement arrived at. However, peoples' disposition to euthanasial given religious teaching on the sanctity of life in the light of contemporary reality has not been significantly explored. Therefore, this paper examined euthanasia from a religious perspective, with emphasis on Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion. It was premised on prudential personalist ethics of B. M. Ashley, which holds that the 'ends' of human actions are always persons and the community of interrelated people responding to one another, and John Locke's natural rights theory. Oral interviews were conducted with twenty purposively selected respondents comprising 3 legal practitioners, 4 medical practitioners, 3 traditionalists, 4 Muslims and 6 Christians. Their responses were complemented with a content analysis of relevant academic materials. The paper established that life is sacred in every religious tradition. However, euthanasia could be the last resort in some respects.

Keywords: euthanasia, sanctity of life, prudential personalist ethics, natural rights, religion

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print ISSN: 2141-9744