The word ‘euthanasia’ comes from the Greek word, whose literal meaning is ‘a good death’, and it refers to quietly falling into eternal sleep. In modern usage, euthanasia is the practice of actively ending a person’s life at his or her request, bringing an end to a fatal illness and the insufferable pain it causes.
Euthanasia is currently a hotly debated topic in Finland. A citizens’ proposal for euthanasia was made at the Kansalaisaloite.fi online service on 7 November 2016. The proposal received 63,078 votes and was delivered to the Parliament of Finland on 14 February 2017.
The proposal is for Parliament to pass an act legalising euthanasia in Finland.
The Church favours the improvement of terminal and palliative care
According to the Christian faith, people are created in God's image and thus hold special value. The power of birth and death is out of people's hands. In the Church’s opinion, palliative and terminal care are preferable to euthanasia in relieving suffering at the end of life.
Terminal care involves alleviating the symptoms of terminally ill patients, supporting the patients and their family, and ensuring safety. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition, palliative care is the holistic care of patients with an incurable, fatal or life-threatening illness that causes them to suffer and their quality of life to deteriorate (according to a 2017 statement from the National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics).
In the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Columbia and Canada, euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal.
The National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (ETENE) issued a statement on human worth, terminal care and euthanasia on 26 September 2017. A Church representative was involved in drafting the statement.
According to ETENE, actions promoting palliative and terminal care would improve the position of patients with a fatal illness more than the legalisation of euthanasia. The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is currently preparing general criteria for palliative and terminal care.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s bishops do not support the legalisation of euthanasia. In their statement on 9 November 2017, the bishops recommend that an evaluation should be made of what should be done to make high-quality terminal care available to everyone in Finland and to take action towards that end.