This topic is relevant to many as it addresses the truth that euthanasia is a reality for everyone. The widely publicised case of Terri Shiavo in the U.S. caused many to consider their own end-of-life care, should the time ever come, as well as that of their loved ones. The Shiavo case made discussion even more complex by introducing such concepts as passive versus active euthanasia, omission versus commission, and ordinary versus extraordinary means to prolong a patient's life.
Many issues surrounding euthanasia are currently being debated, such as its place in traditional monotheistic religious perspectives, as well as futuristic abuses and discriminatory practises. Ultimately, the position that many nurses will find themselves in may be one of conflict, as many current laws regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide are unclear about the participation of nurses. Furthermore, religious nurses will find themselves in a position of having to choose between supporting the patient and adhering to their religious beliefs. Eventually, all nurses will be forced to determine definitively what their position on euthanasia is and whether they will be able to support it ideologically as well as physically. This could possibly mean administering the lethal drugs themselves, which will force many to consider their philosophical position on euthanasia carefully and thoughtfully.
In 1997, the state of Oregon in the U.S. passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which legalised physician-assisted suicide (Miller, et al. 2004). In a study published by Palliative Medicine in 2004, questionnaires were mailed out to all of the hospice nurses and social workers in Oregon in 2001 regarding their responses to patients who request assisted suicide or discuss assisted suicide as a possible option in end-of-life care. The researchers received 573 responses and found 306 to be relevant to their study. The researchers asked the nurses and social workers to rate the importance of religion and spirituality in their lives and professions on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being "not at all important," and 10 being "very important." Both groups rated spirituality as being very important (Miller, et al. 2004). But while social workers rated the importance of religion at 5, nurses rated its importance at 6.6 (Miller, et al. 2004).
The role of religion thusly acts as an influential factor in the approach that many nurses take towards their profession and, subsequently, towards assisted suicide and potential requests. Of the respondents questioned, two-thirds reported having discussed assisted suicide with a patient within the previous year (Miller, et al. 2004). 22% reported being uncomfortable with discussing assisted suicide (Miller, et al. 2004). The researchers found that the nurses who rated the importance of religion highly had a less supportive view of assisted suicide, while nurses who rated religion's importance lower demonstrated a more positive attitude towards assisted suicide (Miller, et al. 2004). Of the nurses who responded to the questionnaire, 13% were Catholic, 1% were Jewish, 28% were Protestant, 28% were Christian Other, and 9% were Other non-Christian (Miller, et al. 2004).
To understand religious perspectives of euthanasia, we must first define euthanasia. There are two basic