Euthanasia and Religion in the Media


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COMU2009 Reporting Religion
University of Queensland

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  • I’ll be focusing on the issue of Euthanasia and religion in the media. I’ll be going through four religions and their stances on euthanasia and the media portrayal of euthanasia and how the media includes religion in the coverage. First, I’ll go through a brief overview of what Euthanasia is.
  • Euthanasia is defined as the practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering and that is why it is also known as…
  • Good Death, Gentle death, Dignified death, Mercy-killing
  • In 1995, Australia’s Northern Territorylegalised euthanasia, but in 1998 it was overturned by the Australian Federal GovernmentMost notably, The Netherlands. To qualify for euthanasia in the Netherlands, you don’t have to have a terminal illness. However, you must be under unbearable suffering of either a physical or mental nature.
  • The person is mentally stable and has made the decision for themselves to dieNon-voluntary: The person is unconscious and the decision is made by a family member or relative for them to diePassive: Refusing to take treatment that could prevent the person from dying, resulting in a sooner deathActive: Taking specific steps to cause the person’s death, by poison, suffocating or overdoseAssisted Suicide: Providing the person with a means to die
  • One way to distinguish them is to look at the last act:So if a third party performs the last act that intentionally causes a patient's death, euthanasia has occurred.For example, giving a patient a lethal injection or putting a plastic bag over her head to suffocate her would be considered euthanasia.If the person who dies performs the last act, assisted suicide has taken place.Thus it would be assisted suicide if a person swallows an overdose of drugs that has been provided by a doctor.
  • Secularists or people not bound by religious teachings would argue for and against euthanasia with ‘human rights’.It is their own lives and their own bodies, they should be able to do whatever they want with it.Our pets have better treatment
  • Because Euthanasia is the act of taking a life, the debate for and against it is similar to the case of abortion and includes religion.Discussions include the sanctity of life, right to live and what is natural – the natural process of deathEuthanasia weakens society's respect for the sanctity of life, suffering may have value, Accepting euthanasia would mean that some lives (those of the disabled or sick) are worth less than others 4 major religions – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism
  • It is not allowed for anyone to wish for death because of some harm, hardship or difficulty that has come to him. In fact, he should be patient and expect a reward from Allah for what he is passing through.From the Islamic perspective, when a person suffers in pain and they’re patient with it, it purifies them from sin, and they are rewarded. “If living is good for me then let me live, but if dying is better for me then let me die.”
  • Katie Couric - noticed that even though they tried to make it a balanced piece of news, it was not really balanced at all because it’s not a good comparison – between someone who is personally involved and someone who is an outsider. Terry Youk was talking from an experienced point of view, an insider’s point of view whereas Dorothy Yeung was merely commenting on the issue.Furthermore, other than being placed first, I noted that Terry Youk was allocated 30 seconds longer in terms duration, and this I felt was an important point because time is precious on television.
  • – shallow, not exhibiting any in depth, serious thoughtAlso she downplays suffering by referring to them as “people with disabilities” or “people who suffer from depression”As you can see, there are stark differences in their interviews. On one hand, Terry Youk evokes our sympathy and appeals to us more easily with his more personalised experience with euthanasia compared to the opposition which uses very general descriptions of the issue and is very impersonal.Also the use of kill, killing and eliminate is very negative and puts off the viewers.I feel that if Katie Couric wanted to make this report a more balanced piece, she should have gotten another person who would be more personal about the issue. (e.g. someone who suffers from a terminal illness but who does not seek euthanasia)
  • 2:25From what I gathered in the interview, his questions are biased. They were mostly negative and confrontational. I felt that it was a really good interview despite that because he managed to phrase it in a way that didn’t make it sound like he was attacking Dr. Kevorkian from his own point of view. Because at the start of his questions he would say that “oh many people said this, what do you think”, “sarahpalin said this, what do you think?”Dr. Kevorkian’s replies, I felt, were very informative and I thought that he analysed the questions Neil Cavuto asked him in his answers. So even though he was defensive – he had to be because the questions asked demanded that kind of answers.However, I thought that the interview was a very informative and a very good one because the both of them were very calm and collected in their roles.Neil Cavuto’s bias, even though it was obvious, did not affect his reporting.Also!! Neil Cavuto fought back a near life ending cancer and ended up with multiple sclerosis years later
  • Should religion be included in the debate? Does religion matter?The people who are non-religious or who do not see religion as an issue obviously would feel annoyed whenever religion is mentioned in the Euthanasia debate.
  • We are the first generation that debates on societal issues are not carried out face to face and in person. Instead, issues such as these are usually presented through television, through news. This is ‘Mediatization’, and mediatization affects the shared story, it affects our shared experiences of the issue because most of us only experience these issues such as euthanasia through the media. And because the media indulges our obsession with death, we may engage in too much death talk and too little life talk.
  • We don’t see many Buddhists talking about euthanasia on the news or Hindus because they don’t have a fixed set of rules that euthanasia in their religion is right or wrong. It is mostly a grey area for them and there can be more than one point of views.
  • Euthanasia and Religion in the Media

    1. 1. By: Vera ChungEuthanasia & ReligionIn the Media
    2. 2. We are a death-denying,death-obsessed
    3. 3. “practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves painand suffering”
    4. 4. The ‘Good Death’Gentle deathDeath with Dignity Mercy Killing
    5. 5. Euthanasia & the Law1994, US state of Oregon legalised physician-assisteddying with certain restrictions1995, Euthanasia was legalized in Australias NorthernTerritory, by the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act1998, Australian Federal Government overturned theRights of the Terminally Ill Act1999, Euthanasia was legalized in Albania2001, The Netherlands became the first European countryto legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide2002, Belgium followed suit, with similar legislation2002, Switzerland legalised euthanasia2009, Luxembourg legalised euthanasia
    6. 6. Types of EuthanasiaCompilation video
    7. 7. Euthanasi aIf a third party performs the lastact that intentionally causes apatients death Assisted Suicide If the person who dies performs the last act
    8. 8. Human RightsThe right to a painless death „Right to Die‟Death is better than dying „Dignified death‟Control over their own livesPet euthanasia is seen as merciful Are human lives worth more than animals‟?
    9. 9. Euthanasia & ReligionSanctity of Life „Natural‟ Right to live
    10. 10. Euthanasia & BuddhismEuthanasia is advised againstKilling mitigated severely by motivationWhile the Buddhist text state that both abortionand euthanasia involve negative karma, theintention is critical. If one truly believes that afoetus is not a living being, for example, thekarma of abortion is less serious than otherwise.If something is suffering, it‟s due to their previouskarma
    11. 11. Euthanasia & Hinduism Not all Hindus agree on whether euthanasia should be permitted. There are two Hindu views of euthanasia:1. A person who helps another reduce suffering is doing a good deed and gains good karma2. Euthanasia disrupts the timing of the cycle of rebirth and therefore yields bad karma • The same argument suggests that keeping a person artificially alive on life-support would also be a bad thing to do • Use of life-support as a temporary attempt at healing would not be a bad thing
    12. 12. Euthanasia & HinduismOne exception to the Hindu prohibition of suicideis the practice of prayopavesa, or fasting to deathPrayopavesa is not regarded as suicide becauseit is natural and non-violent, and is acceptableonly for spiritually advanced people underspecified circumstances
    13. 13. Euthanasia & IslamTo live and die in accordance with Gods will asrevealed in the Qur‟an and practiced by theProphetTo take a life is murderWishing for death is forbidden The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: None of you should wish for death because of some harm that has come to him. If he has such a wish, he should say, „O Allah, give me life if You know that life is better for me. And give me death if You know that death is better is better for me.‟
    14. 14. Euthanasia & ChristianityChristians are generally opposed to euthanasiaRoman Catholic Church remains firmly opposedto both suicide and euthanasiaLife is given by God, suicide implies the person ismaster of his body instead of GodSome churches emphasise the importance of notinterfering with the natural process of deathCommandment states that “Thou shalt not kill”
    15. 15. Euthanasia & the Media
    16. 16. CBS News Advocate OppositionTerry Youk, brother of Dorothy Yeung,Thomas Youk, who National Right to Lifesought help from Dr. K Committee CounselDuration: 2:30 Duration: 2:00
    17. 17. CBS News Advocate OppositionA way to die with peace and “Face of Dr. Death”dignity “Hope he doesn‟t continue onJack Kevorkian was “only his escapades of killingoption” people”Brother wanted “simple, “Virtually eliminating peoplepeaceful death” who are less than perfect, people with disabilities,Had to do this in great people who suffer fromsecrecy, family couldn‟t be depression”present “Killing them is not theSafe, peaceful dignified option answer”“Compassionate practitioner” “The solution is not to kill those people”
    18. 18. Fox News“You spent more than 8 years in prison for helpingterminally ill people die. Prosecution said youmurdered them, it‟s been a long time, are you angry?”“They called you a murderer, what did you think ofthat?”“Sarah Palin called them „Death Panels‟, what do youcall them?”“You think religion and God play too much of a role inthese decisions. Are you an atheist? What are youexactly?”“Well aren‟t there drugs for suffering and pain? Anddrugs for depression?”
    19. 19. Euthanasia & the Mediaincluded? how is religionThe media tries not to include religion inreporting of euthanasiaWhen religion is included, it is usuallyrepresented by the Catholic Church
    20. 20. The presence of the Church in this debate irks someof our listeners. One asked "why do you feel theneed to wheel out these numbskull clerics on anyopportunity?”Jamie AngusEditor of World at One and World This Weekend
    21. 21. Euthanasia & the MediaDebates on societal issues, such as euthanasia,are not carried out face to face and in person.Our public square is the television box.“Mediatization” affects the "shared story" that wecreate through our dialogue,We may engage in too much "death talk" and toolittle "life talk," because media indulges ourobsession with death.
    22. 22. Euthanasia & the isMedia there a balance?No balance in coverage of different religion‟sviews of euthanasia (due to the Catholic Churchbeing the most active voice against euthanasiaand the audience)Media engages in too much "death talk" and toolittle "life talk”Media tries to show a balance of coverage in thedebate, but most of the time fails to balance it outappropriately, sometimes „faking‟ the balance(e.g. CBC‟s coverage)
    23. 23. DiscussionShould religion be included in the euthanasiadebate?Have you been influenced by the media in itsportrayal of euthanasia? If so, how?
    24. 24. "Our bodies break down, sometimes whenwere 90, sometimes before were even born,but it always happens and theres never anydignity in it. I dont care if you can walk, see,wipe your own ass. Its always ugly. Always.You can live with dignity, you cant die withit.”Gregory House, House M.D.