There is in our American (U.S.) society a struggle occurring in regard to caring for the terminally ill AND the severely disabled- how far shall we go to sustain life, and, just as importantly, who makes the decisons?
Increasingly, there are pressures, from those who count the financial cost of it all, to manage care, to ration it, to create decision-making mechanisms which sacrifice the health care options of those whose lives are deemed to be of questionable quality for “the greater good” (convenience) of, variously, the extended family, the community at large, and probably also the hospital’s efficiency and profit.
Of course, the hospital committees that have assumed this role would protest the nobility of their efforts. But the fact is, they are playing god with the lives of defenseless persons.
The blog Not Dead Yet has recently addressed this “futile care” approach for the threat to humanity that it is; see http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/search/label/futile%20care
The Orthodox Churches (jurisdictions of the One Church) have addressed the issue of Euthanasia, but not “futile care” specifically as yet. Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green addresses Euthanasia in her blog: http://www.frederica.com/display/Search
And here is a useful bit if information by a physician, Peter Bushunow, M.D., on “The Orthodox Christian at the Doctor’s” (the issues in question are dealt with as well as other practical and moral considerations): http://www.roca.org/OA/147-148/147x.htm
Here’s an official Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Statement on Euthanasia from 1994:
WHEREAS all human beings who are in a condition of medical dependency because of illness, age, or for some other reason, must be provided with the basic amenities of food, water, cleanliness, warmth and relief from pain. These can never be considered as “extraordinary” measures in the context of medical treatment, and,WHEREAS Christians do not fear bodily death but rather consider it as a Passover between earthly life and the life of the Kingdom. Therefore, all such medical treatments that prolong the dying process while offering no benefit to the individual (with the exception of those ordinary measures previously stated) may, in good conscience, be refused by the individual or those acting on his or her behalf. In some instances, even food and water may become, in the last hours of life when the body may be unable to accept them, a burden from which the sufferer should be delivered: however, these are individual circumstances which should always be judged in a Christian context, and,
WHEREAS the taking of a human life, however understandable the motive, is a serious sin directly and repeatedly forbidden by God. Even where it seems an act of mercy, such as an attempt to alleviate suffering, without sincere repentance, it will surely lead to a loss of God’s Kingdom. As Christians we acknowledge that we do not always recognize God’s will and why things happen as they do in our world. However, we have, as the followers of Christ, promised to place our trust in Him and His love for us and all mankind. This trust includes the patient acceptance of those burdens which may seem, at the time, to be unbearable.
BE IT RESOLVED that this Archdiocese, in accordance with the Tradition and theology of the Orthodox Church condemns all forms of euthanasia or “mercy killing.”
Also of interest: “Death with Piety is Death with Dignity,” by Christopher Huckabay: http://www.stnicholas-billings.org/OurParish/fatherjohn.htm
See also http://orthodoxwiki.org/Euthanasia