The problem of euthanasia (or mercy killing) is quite important in contemporary ethics. There have been a large amount of arguments among many circles. However, most contemporary discussions are limited to the theoretical resources of medicine, philosophy and ethics. In religious ethics, especially Buddhist ethics, there exists abundance of intellectual resources that could be drawn on.
This essay analyses several general representative value judgments which support euthanasia. It is not difficult to find that both extreme utilitarian views and extreme human rights views on euthanasia can be taken as originating from either the classical Greek thinking or the modern Enlightenment thinking. Contemporary moralists are unable to take advantage of such views to get out of the difficulty around the issue of euthanasia. Such views often consist of some general principles, such as autonomy, beneficence, justice and etc. Interestingly, both the supporters and opponents of euthanasia can use the same set of such principles to make their arguments, and cannot persuade the other side. This situation indicates the impoverishment of such views for solving bioethical problems. It is then necessary to introduce some other traditional resources, especially Eastern religious perspectives, to reconsider the problem of euthanasia from a wider background.
From the Buddhist view, all sides of the contemporary debate over the problem of euthanasia - no matter whether it is from the background of Christianity or from modern humanist thinking, actually share the same theoretical presuppositions and originate from the same cultural traditional background, although they seem to be dramatically and severely different. Both Christian theologians and modern Western Humanist intellectuals cut death from daily human life, viewing death as an enemy which people should challenge and overcome. As Buddhists see it, this attitude will surely bring the problem of euthanasia to a mess. Buddhism understands that death and life cannot be entirely separated from each other. This does not mean that Buddhism must support active euthanasia. Rather, to introduce Buddhist thinking resources into consideration over this problem could provide us a brand new perspective of understanding this problem, and may give us some new resolutions of euthanasia.