The Euthanasia debate is coming up in Germany.
Some context: Passive euthanasia is legal in Germany. It’s called Passive Sterbehilfe (Passive death-help, literally translated) here, and means everything that involves not taking certain steps to prolong life.
Aktive Sterbehilfe is completely illegal here. That is, killing people whether privately or by doctors to end their life at their wish. This is what is being debated currently, and Parliament is planning a new approach to the topic, the outcome of which is not yet discernible.
The other day, a popular talk show on public TV had guests to discuss the topic. The pro-life side was made up of two people, a famous Social Democrat who lost his wife to cancer but cared for her until her death, and a Protestant theologian of the EKD. The pro euthanasia side had two people, one who actually performed it (not a doctor) by providing material and detailed instructions to the people but not actually killing them, and a former TV personality who has been tied to a wheelchair for many decades.
I don’t want to discuss Euthanasia here in its entirety, rather the question circles around something the guy providing his “services” from the pro euthanasia side said in response to the theologian. She, the theologian, argued (without naming God for the sake of argument) that life was a gift that we received and over which we had no jurisdiction, that we are to preserve it, but we cannot decide to actively end it. In response to her argument, the above mentioned man said: “Well, there are theologians who disagree. Hans Küng, for example. He says that yes, life is a gift, but we can give that gift back.” At the naming of Hans Küng I laughed, since I had somehow expected that to happen eventually.
Now, I’ve been doing some more thinking about that sentence. Here are my thoughts: The thing about a gift is that the giver has no jurisdiction over it once it has been accepted. It is then entirely in the hand of the new owner, the one presented with the gift of life. If that is our position, why do we argue the contrary, viz. that we are only custodians of life, not rulers over it?