Euthanasia: Secular vs. Devout—Or Is It?

Euthanasia is a widely controversial topic.  The debate surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide seems to be linked with suicide and abortion, with some of the leading arguments for or against the idea spreading from religion and liberal rights.  But what it comes down to is the idea that in a more secularized world, the opinions toward euthanasia are more positive, while in a more devout world, there is a poor opinion of euthanasia.  It’s a basic ideas of the sanctity of life and the value of personal rights clashing together—to some, the “old” vs. the “new.”

In our postmodern society, people are rejecting the preconceived beliefs and values of our previous modern society; they are starting to rebel and ask why? This new society of ours promotes individuality and the need to dissect every aspect of the set system until all is as they see fit—dwindling and gone are the days of the strict institutions and the common values that society used to thrive with.

At least, this was the idea that prevailed until a few years ago when sociologists began coming at this topic from another angle.  They decided to test other arguments used by both sides to see if there was a correlation with the perceived acceptability of euthanasia.

(above) Chantal Sebire, 52, had suffered from esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, for around eight years. She had requested a medically-assisted suicide, at which the French government turned her down. She later was found having committed suicide in her own home.

In one study done by Ellen Verbakel and Eva Jaspers, they used four arguments used for and against euthanasia, instead of just the one.  They sought to discover whether the idea of the “slippery slope,” the idea that euthanasia may go too far if made legal and one day people will be involuntarily euthanized, the idea of autonomy, and the idea of a right to a death of dignity.  What they found was the already discovered concept that religion plays a large part in the permissiveness of euthanasia, but also that in devout countries, there is a larger gap between the religious and non-religious persons’ view points, while in a more secular country, there is less of a gap between the view points.  However, they were unable to conclude a cause for this in this particular study.  They also found that the hypotheses on autonomy and the “slippery slope” also contribute to the tolerance of euthanasia, while the notion of death with dignity was only partially supported by their findings (Verbakel and Jaspers 2010).

There are many factors which lead to a persons’ own view and society’s view on euthanasia.  Many of these factors are still being studied and are not completely understood.  Due to this and the many different ideas and arguments surrounding euthanasia, it has fallen into a gray area in society’s morality.  With such a wide array of opinions, it is difficult to pinpoint the rightness attributed with it, a fact which will perpetuate the storm of ideas and conflict associated with it.

Reference:

Verbakel, Ellen and Eva Jaspers. 2010. “A Comparative Study on Permissiveness toward Euthanasia: Religiosity, Slippery Slope, Autonomy, and Death with Dignity.” Public Opinion Quarterly 74:109-39.