Religious Studies

Sikhism: euthanasia

Euthanasia is not suicide but the assisted ending of someone's life who is suffering. Most religions offer teaching on euthanasia and the end of life.

Types of euthanasia

Euthanasia is illegal in the United Kingdom but it was legalised in certain circumstances in the Netherlands in 2002 and assisted suicide was legalised in the State of Oregon (USA) in 1997.

There are two principal types of euthanasia:

  • voluntary euthanasia - the person concerned asks someone to help them die, perhaps by asking for help to take an overdose of painkillers
  • involuntary euthanasia - euthanasia is carried out without the patient’s consent, for example, if they are in a persistent vegetative state and no longer able to live without a lifesupport machine, which is then switched off

Remember that a person's decision to take their own life is known as 'suicide'.

Sikh attitudes towards euthanasia

Sikhs have great respect for life, which is regarded as a gift from Waheguru [Waheguru: A Punjabi term used in Sikhism to refer to God. ]. Therefore most Sikhs are opposed to euthanasia [Euthanasia: Literally, 'good death'. ] as they believe that birth and death should be left in the hands of Waheguru.

God sends us and we take birth. God calls us back and we die.

Guru Granth Sahib 1239

Suicide

The Sikh Gurus did not approve of suicide [Suicide: Intentionally taking one's own life. ] as it interferes with the plans of Waheguru.

They believed that suffering was the result of bad Karma[an error occurred while processing this directive] and that people should accept it without complaint but try to make the best of the situation. Sikhs believe that life is given by Waheguru and although it may be joyful or sorrowful, long or short, no one but Waheguru has the right to shorten it

Death is seen as a gateway into another life:

The dawn of a new day is the herald of a sunset. Earth is not your permanent home.

Guru Granth Sahib 793

The Sikh teaching about Sewa[an error occurred while processing this directive] and caring for others suggests that the correct response to situations would be to provide such good care that euthanasia became an unattractive option.

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