What does Christianity teach about euthanasia?

There is no single Christian teaching on euthanasia - different Christian denominations take different views.

Most Christians believe that life is sacred and given by God, and therefore only God can decide when life ends. This means that many Christians trust God to end life when the proper time comes and would not accept any intervention that would end a life before God decides.

Christians follow the Ten Commandments, one of which says:

You shall not murder.Exodus 20:13

The deliberate ending of a life could be classed as murder.

However, another key Christian teaching is:

Love your neighbour as yourself.Luke 10:27

Some Christians believe that ending pain and suffering, even if this means ending a life before God decides, to be an act of love and compassion.

When Jesus was being crucified on the cross, we are told in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 15:23) that he refused the mixture of 'wine and gall' which could have eased his pain. Following this example, many Christians believe that suffering is an inevitable part of life that should be endured and offered up to God in union with Jesus's suffering.

What does this mean in practice?

Different denominations interpret the teachings differently, with very different results.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that no person has the right to deliberately end the life of another person, or his or her own life. However, it also teaches that it is not acceptable to unquestioningly prolong the life of a dying person.

In February 2009, Pope Benedict XVI, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church, made that Church's position on euthanasia very clear: Euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution unworthy of man.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.Paragraph 2277

Most Protestant denominations also teach that euthanasia and assisted suicide are unacceptable solutions to the problem of suffering.

Some Christians, however, accept that if a person is terminally ill and in extreme pain or distress, euthanasia may be an act of compassion, provided the dying person requests it and fully understands the consequences of their request. They may also use the teaching on free will to justify the right to choose to die. However, those Christians who support euthanasia only do so if it is voluntary and passive, and never if it is involuntary or active.

Many Christian denominations support the hospice movement. Hospices provide palliative care and support for a dying person and their families to help ease the pain of death and allow them to come to terms with the death.