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Nearly half of Finnish pastors have positive attitude towards euthanasia

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | December 19, 2019
One in five pastors would approve of euthanasia as part of Finnish health care, and up to half of pastors have a positive attitude towards it, a new Ph.D. thesis from the University of Eastern Finland shows.
University of Eastern Finland
Religion in Finland   University of Eastern Finland
"This is surprising, considering that Christian churches and communities tend to oppose euthanasia.

"Earlier studies have also shown that religious professionals are usually against euthanasia," Ph.D. Student Miia Kontro says.

Roughly half of Finnish pastors have a positive attitude towards euthanasia when it is not part of Finnish health care.

However, 50 percent of pastors do not approve of euthanasia under any circumstances.

Although the attitudes held by pastors are clearly more negative than those of nurses and the general public, the proportion of pastors who approve of euthanasia is nevertheless significant.

Completed in the field of practical theology, the doctoral dissertation analyzed the attitudes of pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland towards euthanasia, as well as factors contributing to those attitudes.

The study shows that among pastors, the probability of an eventual death is a factor that makes them more inclined to approve of euthanasia.

However, mere human suffering as a subjective experience is not strong enough a ground for approval.

Two in five pastors would approve of euthanasia for a person who is very likely to die in the upcoming few days, whereas only one in five pastors would approve of euthanasia for a person who is in pain and has a remaining life expectancy of less than one year.

"It is noteworthy that when this question becomes personal, more than one third of pastors would approve of their own euthanasia if they were suffering from unbearable pain.

"Moreover, 8 percent of pastors who oppose euthanasia for others would allow it for themselves."

The idea of an omnipotent God who is the guardian of life and death is dominant among pastors.

61 percent of pastors believe that life is in the hands of God, and man should not meddle with how and when that life ends.

However, only 13 percent of pastors believe that euthanasia will lead to consequences in the afterlife.

Male pastors considered euthanasia to be against God's will more frequently than female pastors.

"This is true for all Finnish dioceses except for the Borgå Diocese, where male pastors have a more positive attitude towards euthanasia than female pastors do.

"It can be assumed these attitudes will become increasingly positive in the future, as the number of female pastors is growing, and women also have more leadership roles in parishes.

"Research shows that parishes led by women are more liberal than those led by men," Kontro sums up.