Society faces a number of issues of life and death, and because of developments in medicine and technology, these issues become more difficult all the time. We can keep people alive when in the past they might have died, but should we? Because we have to ask this question, the idea of euthanasia has also become more important--should we "pull the plug" on people whose quality of life will never be "normal" again, who may be suffering great pain, or who cannot continue to live without being attached to machines? Recently, Pope John Paul II stated that we are creating a "culture of death" by deciding that there are times when euthanasia is acceptable, and he instead believes there is no time when "pulling the plug" is acceptable. An absolute position ignores the reality of human suffering for both the patient and his or her family and makes both agree to allow suffering as something that has to be endured. In truth, the pope's position is not completely rigid, but he is not clear as to when he would be rigid and when he would not.
The problem is that we have learned to cope with one aspect of our medical problems without being able to carry it through as far as we wish. As noted, medical science today can prolong life but may not be able to restore full functioning to the sufferer, in which case the human suffering involved is also being prolonged:
When technology becomes an end in itself, unduly prolonging the dying process, it creates a paradox in which human dignity may be undermined and where the goals of treatment are distorted to accommodate the imperatives of technology. . . Decisions that subordinate the humane dying of a terminally ill man or woman to the technological imperative, or personal or institutional selfinterestlegal, financial, professionalare not consistent with Christian values and traditions (Tong 27).
The purpose of medical science is to alleviate human suffering, not to prolong it, and th...