Introduction to Jewish and Catholic Bioethics: A Comparative Analysis

By Aaron L. Mackler | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

IN THIS CHAPTER I EXAMINE JEWISH AND CATHOLIC approaches to the issues of active euthanasia and assisted suicide. I survey writings on the topic, moving generally from right to left— beginning with arguments against, then considering arguments for, euthanasia.

To an extent that is remarkable in light of methodological differences at the theoretical level, theologians in the two traditions frame the issues in similar ways and identify similar sets of specific concerns; although such similarities are evident throughout this volume, they are particularly striking with regard to this topic. A spectrum of responses on euthanasia and assisted suicide emerges in each tradition. Substantively, the range of Jewish positions tends to overlap with and extend somewhat to the right of Catholic views, although this rightward leaning is less prominent here than on the related issue of forgoing life-sustaining treatment (see chapter 4).

Writers in the two traditions offer similar reasons for their views. Jewish and Catholic theologians share many basic values and generally express similar understandings of God, humanity, and the world—often citing the same Scriptural texts. There is some tendency for Catholic thinkers to place greater emphasis on natural law and teleological concerns, including a normative model of a spiritually good death. Appeals to tradition and examination of textual sources tend to be more prominent among Jewish writers. These tendencies reflect general characteristics of the religions, as noted in chapters 1 and 2. Jewish ethics has long focused on tradition and halakhah, though reason and experience have always been part of the process as well; Catholic ethics has focused on reason and natural law teleology, though tradition has been recognized as an important source of


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