Ethics at the End of Life (Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide): Resources

This page provides a range of key resources on ethics at the end of life, especially debates around euthanasia and assisted suicide. Most, but not all, of these are available online (some though requiring a subscription to be accessed).

The initial section points to some helpful introductory and widely reprinted pieces found in dictionaries and readers. It is followed by pointing to important discussions in more general books on bioethics.

There follows a selection of resources particularly focussed on Scripture and then on the Christian tradition.

The extensive section on contemporary ethical discussions first introduces a range of authors with particular expertise in this area beginning with those broadly opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide and then pointing to Christian supporters before providing other resources.

Finally, there are links to a number of denominational statements and to pressure groups in this area.

Last Updated on 2 March, 2021 by Andrew Goddard

Dictionary Articles & Readers

  • IVP New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology articles on “Life, Health & Death” (pp. 87-92), “Ethics of Medical Care” (pp. 93-9), “Death and Dying” (pp. 284-5), “Euthanasia” (pp. 357-9), “Killing” (pp. 527-8) and “Suicide” (pp. 825-6)
  • SCM New Dictionary of Christian Ethics article on “Euthanasia” (pp. 210-2), “Life, Prolongation of” (351-2), “Life, Sacredness of” (353-4) and “Suicide” (609)
  • Dictionary of Scripture & Ethics there are a range of articles on “Bioethics” (pp. 95-101), “Death, Definition Of” (pp. 205-6), “Death and Dying” (pp. 206-9), “Euthanasia” (pp. 283-4), “Healthcare Ethics” (pp. 353-8), “Hospice” (p. 377), “Quality of Life” (pp. 651-2), “Sanctity of Human Life” (pp. 702-3) and “Suicide” (pp.758-60). 
  • The reader On Moral Medicine has 3 editions and each has chapters on “Life and Its Sanctity” and “Choosing Death and Letting Die” with a short introduction and a number of articles. 
  • Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics has a chapter on ‘Receiving Communion: Euthanasia, Suicide and Letting Die’ by Kathryn Greene-McCreight (Chpt 42, pp. 427-39 in 2nd edition) and by Carole Bailey Stoneking (Chpt 28, pp. 375-87 in 1st edition)
  • Meilaender, Gilbert and W. Werpehowski (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics (Oxford University Press) includes chpt 15 on death by Darlene Weaver (pp. 254-69, whole text on Google books).

General Bio-ethics books

Most books on bioethics will have material on end of life issues. See, for example,

Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics A Primer for Christians (2013 3rd edn, Eerdmans), Chpt 6 on suicide and euthanasia and Chpt 7 on refusing treatment.  Also important by Meilaender are:

John Wyatt’s Matters of Life and Death (2009 2nd edn, IVP), Chpts 8, 9 & 10 is the work of an evangelical Anglican, Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London and a senior researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge.  See also his 2010 Cambridge Paper on “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide” and two recent books :

  • Right To Die?: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide And End-Of-Life Care (IVP, 2015) and
  • Dying Well (IVP, 2018). 

His website has a page with links to some of his articles and talks on euthanasia and palliative care.

Neil Messer’s Theological Issues in Bioethics, Chpt 5 is on death with an introduction, two articles and a case study on “The Right to Die?”.

Scripture

  • Allen Verhey, Reading the Bible in the Strange World of Medicine (2003, Eerdmans), Chpt 8 on “Judas, Jesus and Physician Assisted Suicide”.
  • Yael Shemesh, “Suicide in the Bible

Tradition

Two classic discussions are:

Contemporary Christian Ethical Discussions of Euthanasia and Assisted Dying

The most important recent ethical work is that of Nigel Biggar in his Aiming to Kill?: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia (DLT, 2003).

Other shorter introductions to his work include:


David Albert Jones is a leading Roman Catholic bioethicist whose book Approaching the End: A Theological Exploration of Death and Dying (2007, OUP) is an excellent discussion of Christian theological approaches.  Other helpful shorter guides to his thinking include:


John Keown is one of the most prominent legal and ethical critics of changing the law in this area. 


Michael Banner’s Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (CUP, 1999) Chpt 2 on “Christian Anthropology at the Beginning and End of Life” (Chpt 2, esp. pp. 47-51, 68-85) has a theological discussion of key issues.  His more recent The Ethics of Everyday Life (OUP, 2014) Chpt 5 also has relevant material.


Stanley Hauerwas:


Paul Badham is probably the most detailed defender of assisted suicide and euthanasia from a Christian perspective.  His main work is Is There a Christian Case for Assisted Dying? (SPCK, 2009) and shorter pieces setting out his case include:

There are critical responses to his book and arguments from David Robertson and David Albert Jones.


Other recent Christian advocates of assisted dying include:


Other helpful resources include:

Church Statements

The Church of England’s position is set out in


The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching is set out in:


The Church of Scotland has various reports including:


The Methodist Church has a summary of its views and links to various resources here.

Pressure Groups

Care Not Killing is the main Christian group in the UK opposed to changes in the law

Dignity in Dying is the main group in the UK working to change the law

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