End of Life Challenges or Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)

Speaker: Categories: May 20, 2006


[1hr, 16min, 56sec / 42min, 40sec]


Which of the two titles (End of Life ChallengesorPhysicial Assisted Suicide (PAS)) do you find to be the more tolerable, the less offensive? Why? If you were being confronted by such an end-of-life challenge, which title/term would you be more likely to use in conversations with friends and family?

Dr. Jim Walters will be reflecting on the current interest in physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and doing so from an explicitly Adventist perspective.

First, he will survey the legal status of PAS in the US and Europe.

Second, he will analyze the Adventist position on the related topics of abortion and PAS. Whereas Adventism tilts towards a nuanced acceptance of the former, it is explicitly against the latter. He will contend that the denomination's stance on abortion is more in keeping with its historic emphasis on religious liberty -- a central theme in its abortion guideline.

Third, he will briefly chart how his own mind has changed, from being opposed, to a nuanced support of PAS. Here he promises to contrast fundamental views of human life held by, e.g., Roman Catholicism and Adventism. The Vatican has long taught a redemptive view of pain/suffering, whereas Adventism sees pain and suffering as an evil.


James W. Walters, Professor of Religion, Faculty of Religion, LLU, has been a professor at LLU for over 25 years. Author or editor of six books and scores of articles, Walters'focus in'ethics has been at life's edges -- neonatal and geriatric ethics. In the early 90's he had a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a Southern California Ethics and Aging Project. Two edited anthologies came out of this project. On the other hand his NEH fellowship in bioethics at the University of Virginia resulted in his development of the idea of"proximate personhood”. In the context of LLU’s use of anencephalic newborns as organ sources Waiters'most significant work,What Is a Person?(University of Illinois Press, 1997), came from these endeavors - as did his invitation to write the entry on Moral Status in the Bioethics Encyclopedia, 3rd ed. (Macmillan, 2004).

Most recently Walters has been working with a research team drawn from four schools at Loma Linda University that succeeded in securing a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for its Adventist Religion and Health Study. This study, in cooperation with the Adventist Health Study-II, promises to be one of the most significant studies of religion and health outcomes in the nation. It will study the relationship that such factors as concept of god, religious involvement, prayer, and Sabbath rest have on health outcomes. Those health outcomes involve both longevity and quality of life, and could be good or bad. Not only will it utilize 10,000 questionnaires, but it will also enroll 500 members in the greater Loma Linda area for clinical visits. This aim of the study involves blood analysis to check for biochemical markers that may indicate the effect of a religious life.

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