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Document Details :
Title: Christian Churches and Euthanasia in the Low Countries
Subtitle: Background, Argumentation and Commentary
Author(s): JANS, Jan
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 9 Issue: 2-3 Date: 2002
It will hardly come as a surprise to anybody even only remotely familiar with the general thrust and orientation of ‘Christian ethics’, that the question of euthanasia has been and still is seen in general as a moral disvalue and/or an evil that should be resisted. The bottom line of this approach is the theological notion that human life is a gift of the Creator and therefore a good to be nurtured, promoted and worth protection. Euthanasia, and especially its depenalization and legalization to different degrees in the current laws of the Netherlands and Belgium, is evaluated as contrary to this requirement of protectability. Both during the (public) debate on euthanasia and in reaction to various attempts to legislate on this matter, Christian churches in the Netherlands and Belgium have raised their voices and addressed the public at large, their own members and politicians in order to influence reflection and deliberation.
In this article, I will first describe the argumentative way in which the major Christian churches in the Netherlands and Belgium have dealt with what they considered the challenge of the demand to legalize euthanasia in their respective countries. Given the important differences between the courses of events in both countries, the part on the interventions in the Netherlands will be considerably longer than the one on Belgium. No doubt, the most important reason for this difference is the fact that the public discussion on euthanasia together with efforts to change the penal law prohibiting it, took shape in the Netherlands already from 1968 on. Next to this, the fact that the major Christian churches in the Netherlands were not in agreement on the proper approach also contributes to a more differentiated picture. In the third part of this article, I will present some comments and a moral theological evaluation of the core of the argumentation forwarded by the Christian churches.