‘Euthanasia’ is in the contemporary Netherlands very concretely understood as the “at one’s own request consciously ending of the life of patients that suffer unbearably and hopelessly”.1 More general is the English definition in which euthanasia is understood as the “action of inducing a gentle and easy death”2. As such the meaning comes from the more primal meaning of “a gentle and easy death” on itself.3 And etymologically the word comes from the Greek word ‘euthanasia’,4 meaning the same.5 This last word is compounded of the words ‘eu’ and ‘thanatos’,6 whereby the first means ‘easy’ or ‘(morally) good’,7 and the last ‘death’8. So ‘euthanasia’ can etymologically understood as an easy and / or (morally) good death. This original meaning we see, be it distorted or not, reflected in the contemporary Dutch definition where the at one’s own request consciously ending of the life refers to the ease of euthanasia and the ending of the life of patients that suffer unbearably and hopelessly to the moral good thereof.
That the contemporary Dutch definition of euthanasia lets ease and moral goodness go together does not mean that this is obviously. It is even so that both are often in stride with each other. Now the ease of euthanasia is generally not argued about. This we recognize in the English definitions where the emphasize is laid on the ease of a death by euthanasia. What is argued about is whether euthanasia is morally good or not. We see that this is publically especially discussed by Christians and humanists. Thereby both parties are handling different assumptions. For Christians the Bible is the moral measure and they state, on ground of the sixth commandment of Moses from the Old Testament that forbids killing, that euthanasia is in all cases immoral.9 For humanists however man is the measure of all things, with which they depart from the self-determination, which makes them take the primary stance that euthanasia as self-chosen ending of life is in all cases morally. There is however a common ground where both parties can find each other. Because humanists in the assessment of morality centralize man has humaneness a prominent place. But the latter goes also for Christians for whom the principle of charity is very prominent.10 So with the charity of the Christians and the humaneness of the humanists it is that both parties can find each other in the alleviation of suffering. And thus we see this element taken into the contemporary Dutch definition of euthanasia, where the element of “unbearable and hopeless suffering” is included.
The alleviation of unbearable and hopeless suffering is not an argument among Christians and humanists. An argument is whether the “ending of life” is a morally good or tolerable means for this. For Christians, who still put the commandments of Moses in the first place, this isn’t a tolerable means. In euthanasia the commandment of Moses to not kill cannot be paired with the importance of charity which Jesus emphasized. Humanists however put the self-determination of individual man in the first place. And this means that for humanists in all cases of self-determination the ending of life is morally good or tolerable, and thus definitely also in the case of the showing of humaneness.
It can be presumed that in the battle for dominance of assumptions in the Dutch society through the secularization process the Christian primal assumptions have declined in importance while those of humanism have increased. And this then has led to the contemporary Dutch definition of euthanasia as “at one’s own request consciously ending of the life of patients that suffer unbearably and hopelessly” wherein both the ease and the considered morally good from the original meaning are reflected.
Euthanasia is etymosophically originally understood as ‘an easy and / or (morally) good death’. Because the dominant visions in Dutch society of Christians and humanists consider euthanasia as easy, because they consider charity and humaneness morally good, and because humanists, whose vision has become the most dominant, consider self-determination morally good, is euthanasia in the contemporary Netherlands generally understood as “at one’s own request consciously ending of the life of patients that suffer unbearably and hopelessly”.
The above contemporary Dutch concept of euthanasia is in history formed by the visions of Christianity and humanism. The Christian vision was dominant in the middle ages but since modern times humanism has become more important, because of which it has become in contemporary times the most dominant vision. The Christian thought can be understood as the ruling ethic paradigm of the middle ages.11 From René Descartes (1596-1650) onwards, who take man instead of God as first evidence, after which the problem of dualism of spirituality and materiality was solved by science by crossing out the spiritual pole,12 a modern materialistic ethic paradigm made its entrance; the ethic paradigm of humanism. However in our contemporary times a new ethic paradigm has come to the fore, which in ages to come is considered to take over the dominance of humanism.
The coming ethic paradigm for the new age is that of the new age thought. This new age thought is based on the secret wisdom teaching.13 This teaching unites the Christian and humanist assumptions by centralizing not God and not man but man as God. The Christian differentiation of the spiritual God as ordainer and the material man as ordained and the humanist unity of the material man as both ordainer and ordained is in the new age thought united into a dualistic thought in which the spiritual man, or godly man, ordains the material man, or the animalistic man.
From the above it can be understood that with its own different assumptions the morality with regards to euthanasia of the new age thought will also be different. Where Christians think that God must ordain over the moment of the ending of life and where humanists think that the individual material man must ordain over this himself there do new age thinkers think that the spiritual man must ordain over it. To put it otherwise do new age thinkers think that the soul purpose of man must determine his ending of life. When the spiritual man as soul has inwardly made its decision to separate this spiritual man from the material or physical man, and when a start with this separation has been made, for instance through a disease that brings about suffering without hope, then the personal choice for euthanasia as intervening on the material level is considered as tolerable.14 Here we see again the Christian assumptions united with those of humanism. Where according to the Christians only God may decide about the ending of life, and where according to the humanists only the material man may decide about this, (in consensus with unbearable and hopelessly suffering), there should according to the new age thinkers euthanasia only take place when the godly man decided about this and the material man agrees with this (this also in consensus with unbearable and hopelessly suffering because with new age thinkers service is considered as equally important as charity with Christians and humaneness with humanists).
The above also has implications for the consideration of the right attitude of the one who shall undergo the euthanasia. Where the contemporary outlook is calibrating the right attitude at the choice for euthanasia to escape the unbearable and hopelessly suffering there calibrates the new age outlook the right attitude at the choice for post-physical life.15 Where contemporary euthanasia is approached from a negative attitude this shall be done from a positive attitude in the new age.
In the above contemplation we’ve seen that the term ‘euthanasia’ has evolved from its original meaning of ‘an easy and / or (morally) good death’ under influence of Christianity with its centralized God and its important charity and the humanism with its centralized material man and its important humaneness to the contemporary meaning of ‘at one’s own request consciously ending of the life of patients that suffer unbearably and hopelessly’. The new age thought, grounded in the secret wisdom teaching, with its centralized godly man and its important service shall however gain in dominance in the coming times. Euthanasia in the meaning of ‘the in line with the choice of the spiritual soul on personal request ending of the material life’ (or in deduced meanings) shall together with a positive outreaching attitude therein become the norm of the new age.