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Protestantism And End Of Life Care

Ichthys as adopted as a Christian symbol. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons
Ichthys as adopted Christian symbol. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

The term “Protestant” applies to many different Christian denominations with a wide range of beliefs that trace common origins to the Reformation. Protestant ideas have profoundly influenced modern bioethics, and most Protestants would see mainstream bioethics as compatible with their personal convictions (Canadian Medical Association Journal, Merril Pauls and Roger C. Hutchinson, 2002). However, this makes it difficult to define a uniquely Protestant approach to bioethics.

Although most Protestants are comfortable with a wide variety of life-sustaining treatments when facing disease with little hope of recovery, many understand why health care providers suggest a withdrawal of aggressive interventions (Pauls, Roger).

Belief in heaven or an afterlife provides comfort to patients and their families, and also leads some to avoid “playing God” and prolonging life at all costs. When faced with important decisions, many devout Protestants seek to determine God’s “will” for their lives through prayer, reading the Bible and consulting with other believers.

Protestants are mostly against euthanasia, because they view life as a gift from God that should not be taken away (BBC: Religion and Ethics).


Protestantism is a form of Christianity which began with the Protestant Reformation (16th century) as a revolt against what were believed to be errors in the medieval Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy and doctrine. It is one of the three major divisions of Christianity, along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

With more than 800 million adherents, forms of Protestantism flourish on all populated continents, according to PEW Research Center. However, the majority of Protestants are members of just a few denominations: Adventism, Anglicanism, Baptist churches, Reformed churches, Lutheranism, Methodism and Pentecostalism.

The Ninety-Five Theses. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons
The Ninety-Five Theses. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

The movement is widely considered to have begun in 1517 when Martin Luther, a German priest and professor of theology, published his Ninety-Five Theses, a public criticism against abuses in the sale of indulgences, which purported to offer remission of sin to their purchasers, among other things (Protestants: A History from Wittenberg to Pennsylvania 1517-1740, C. Scott Dixon).

All Protestant denominations reject the notion of papal supremacy and generally deny the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (during this sacrament, bread and wine consecrated by a priest become the body and blood of Christ).

Most Protestants regard the Bible (Old and New Testament) as the supreme source of authority over their church and lives, placing it above church tradition and hierarchy.

Believers are pardoned for sin solely by faith in Jesus Christ, rather than from a combination of faith, good works and sacraments. For Protestants, good works are a consequence of faith in Christ.