Death and Dying


Health care in this age has revolutionized. Long gone are the days when patients’ healthcare was generalized to all the patients. Patient-centered care has taken over. Nurses are bent on providing quality health care; one of the fundamental pillars of quality healthcare is providing individualized care. Each patient is treated with a great consideration to their religious, ethnic, gender, cultural, political and economic background. This paper is going to discuss how different religious backgrounds of Christianity and Buddhism could factor in the care of an ALS patient George. The paper seeks to analyze the ethical perspectives that will arise in the care of the patient in this case study.

The Christian perspective is mostly etched in the belief that ALS is a trial that like many other tests that they undergo is meant to harden them. Christians acknowledge disease and its debilitating effects on their bodies (Calvo et al., 2014). Most Christians even seek medical treatment for these conditions. Apart from a few denominations in the religion of Christianity like Jehovah witnesses who sometimes tend to believe in the miraculous power of healing most of the other Christians seek health care when sick. George would thus strive to be treated when he has ALS. The Holy Bible says, “Consider it all joy brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Such teachings from the Bible only serve to strengthen the belief in the likes of George that despite their suffering with ALS they are only building their endurance to the disease.

The Christian perception of ALS is that it is an “enemy” of people’s life. It is seen as a terrible and debilitating disease. It is also perceived as a mutual enemy of everyone. Christian’s think that ALS steals people’s lives and is a horrible disease. This view is supported by Scripture; Jesus in the Bible said says the enemy came to kill, still and destroy.  The three attributes are more or less what ALS has done to George. It is, therefore, easy to understand the Christian perception of what ALS is all about. Whatever the condition does to the patient is similar to what the enemy comes to do according to the Bible. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive motor neuron disease that affects the spinal cord and the brain of the patient. The patient’s muscles subsequently stop working (May, 2003). All of these are features of a destructive disease that steal life from the individuals it attacks. The Christian community, therefore, views the ailment as the enemy; the two shares attributes.

Christians believe that God is good; they also acknowledge that the disease is a bad thing. According to Christianity, God is a supreme being or divinity who is all powerful, and he can do all things. ALS, therefore, adds to the many “why?” questions that Christians have about life today. George as a Christian would ask himself why God who is all powerful has allowed him to suffer from ALS yet he has the power to save him from the torture (May, 2003). Buddhists to have a similar view of ALS; the condition is perceived as a source of suffering among the Buddhists. They disease considered as a cause of sadness among the people who suffer from it are afflicted by an illness that they can avoid. According to the religion, the disease can be averted by the gods and goddesses in the faith.

Christianity is mostly against the principles of euthanasia. Their perception against euthanasia is drawn from the belief that life is given to humans by God and that Human beings are made in God’s image. Some Christian denominations put extra focus on the fact that people should not interfere with the natural process of death. Christian doctrine is edged in the fact that all lives are given by God (May, 2003).  Birth and death are sacred processes of life that are created by God, and they should be accorded respect. Given this, Christians believe that no human being has the power or authority to take away the life of another person regardless of whether the person wants to die or not.

Christians ascribe to the principles that proposing euthanasia for patients like George is equal to judging that the current life of that individual is not worthwhile.  Such a kind of judgment is viewed by Christians as being incompatible with recognition of the worthiness and the dignity of the person being killed (May, 2003). According to the Christian view on euthanasia, nobody should ask for euthanasia even for themselves because they do not have the right to value themselves as worthless.

Buddhists, however, have a more flexible view on euthanasia for George in ALS. Buddhists are more flexible because they do not impose absolute judgment on euthanasia rather they appear to be less clear on the matter as compared to their Christian counterparts leaving the question open (May, 2003). Generally speaking Buddhists are against involuntary euthanasia; however, voluntary euthanasia is still a foggy issue among the Buddhists. There are few teachings from Buddha on the matter (Keown & Keown, 2011). Buddhists argue that if George were to ask for euthanasia, he would be doing so in a sad state of mind. This state of mind they claim has been caused by the physical suffering that he is facing. What’s more, any health care provider who helps a patient get voluntary euthanasia is also at risk of being afflicted by the poor state of mind, they should, therefore, be exempted from that type of affliction (May, 2003).

Some aspects of Buddhist religious law forbid euthanasia even for the ALS patient because the practice is viewed as causing harm to the body. Finally, Buddhists believe there is an afterlife. They further believe that the quality of the afterlife is mostly dependent on the current life. As such, any Buddhist who leads a sad life on earth is sure to get a worse life in the afterlife. Buddhist analysts basing their argument on this principle see no need to hasten the process of someone who lived a sad life moving to a worse afterlife. There are documented cases of Japanese Buddhists who took their lives (Keown & Keown, 2011), but these were monks who George or the other patients who have ALS may not be.

Given the above facts, Buddhist appear to be more open to allowing George have euthanasia as compared to Christianity (May, 2003). The Buddhists have no clear teaching that stands out against euthanasia. There even cases of Japanese Buddhist taking their life; and nothing wrong were seen in that action. In fact, if George was a monk then he would be permitted to participate in voluntary euthanasia. What’s more some of the arguments leveled against euthanasia by Buddhists is that there is no point of hastening one’s transition to an afterlife that is much worse than his current predicament (May, 2003). The principle is drawn from the belief that Buddhists who lead a sad life earn a worse afterlife as punishment for their bad life. So if George led a miserable life then he is in line for a worse life in the afterlife; as such there is no point of sending him to an early grave knowing too well that he is going to endure something worse.

If the above argument is anything to go by then, it means those Buddhists who have led a real life are going to get a reward of a better life when they die. On these grounds then it there need to be no issues with Buddhists when a well-lived life, as per the Buddhist doctrine, is taken away via euthanasia. If anything the doctors will be just hastening the patient’s transition from a difficult life with ALS to a better one that has been promised by Buddha (Keown & Keown, 2011).  Christianity, on the other hand, adopts more strict perception of euthanasia. Given their belief that life is sacred and God was given, it is believed and held firmly that mere human beings have no right or authority to terminate it. Taking life in whatever circumstance is seen as lowering the dignity of human life. Neither the doctor, the family nor the George himself has the right to play God.

George is, therefore, better suited being a Buddhist than being Christian if he wants to terminate his life due to ALS. Within this religion, euthanasia is arguable, something that cannot be similar to  Christianity. In Christianity however, George can find hope, Christians believe in the power of will and God’s healing. He will, therefore, be surrounded by hope and belief in a longer life. In all these religions it is of prime importance that the nurse and by extension the health care team ensure they meet the patient’s needs (May, 2003). The team should not in any way impose their religious values pertinent to the matter on the patient.


All in all, ALS is a terminal condition that affects the robust framework of the patients. The disease is so severe that in some cases patients like George may opt to be taken out of their suffering through euthanasia. Different religions hold different views and perceptions on the matter of worship. Patients also belong to diverse religious backgrounds whose doctrines they live by. Despite this, it is important that nurses give patient-centered care which implies that the patient should receive treatment as an individual. This paper has analyzed George’s case on two religions; Christianity and Buddhism. Both religions largely share views on the matter of ALS; it is a form of suffering on the human body. Among Christians though, there arise instances of “why” questions because God can cure anything so why let them suffer from ALS. The two religions are also generally in sync on the matter of involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is however still foggy among the Buddhists but out rightly condemned in Christianity. Of the two, George can get the euthanasia in Buddhism, and hope, belief and faith in Christianity.




Calvo, A., Manzano, R., Mendonça, D., Muñoz, M., Zaragoza, P., & Osta, R. (2014). Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Focus on Disease Progression. Biomed Research International2014, 1-12.

Keown, D. & Keown, J. (2011). Killing, karma and caring: euthanasia in Buddhism and Christianity.Journal Of Medical Ethics21(5), 265-269.

May, A. (2003). Physician-Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and Christian Bioethics: Moral Controversy in Germany. Christian Bioethics9(2-3), 273-283.