Euthanasia or “mercy killing” is an unethical attempt to unnaturally terminate the life of an individual or hasten the onset of death in order to prevent that person from experiencing suffering and hardship. Sometimes euthanasia is advocated as a way to terminate the suffering of a severely depressed person or a person who ahs grown weary of the hardships of life (Dr. Kevorkian is an advocate of this type of assisted suicide). Primarily, however, euthanasia is viewed as a means to an end to terminate the sufferings of terminally ill or chronically ill patients. Advocates of euthanasia believe that early death preserves the dignity of the suffering patient and prevents undue hardships. Unfortunately, no matter how you describe it, euthanasia is nothing les that participation in murder: taking the life of an individual without recourse to just societal law.
Advocates of euthanasia fail to understand or appreciate the redemptive role of suffering in the individual. Christ desires for us to participate in his Passion, and thus suffering within the Body of Christ has a redemptive role. Because baptized Christians are part of the mystical Body of Christ, Jesus Christ – the head of the body – asks his members to participate not only in his resurrection and grace, but also in the suffering of his Passion. St. Paul firmly evinces this doctrine, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). He also says, “And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).
This does not mean that Christ’s redemption is lacking, or that his suffering was not enough for the redemption of the world. It only means that we are chosen to offer up our sufferings for the expiation of the temporal punishment deserved by our sin and the free participation in the life of Christ. Christ merits our redemption and forgives our sins but the punishment and penance for our selfish actins must still be. Paul’s letter to the Colossians notes that by offering our own sufferings for the body of Christ, we can make up for those members of the body of Christ whose sufferings are lacking. Thus the body of Christ, the Catholic Church, offers the collective suffering of its members of the expiation of temporal punishment and follows in the Passion and sufferings of the Head of the body of Christ, Jesus Christ.
Nor does it mean that Catholics go out of their way to look for suffering and hardship. Suffering, in itself, is a result of sin and evil manifested by the fall of mankind. Such acts as fasting, prayer and the offering of hardships to the Lord are beneficial. However, purposeful undue suffering and pain can in fact be a sin. In fact, the Church does attempt to correct and alleviate the temporal suffering of mankind (such as natural disaster victims, the hungry, the persecuted etc.) What Paul is really talking about is the unavoidable suffering that is a part of temporal life. A good Christian will accept the hardships of life that can not be alleviated. With good Christian humility and charity a suffering person will offer their suffering for the Body of Christ and its head, Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, the Church has forbidden the use of euthanasia:
Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes the death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. (CCC 2277-2278)