The Catholic church considers it morally unacceptable to withhold hydration and nutrition, and this should be provided by any means necessary unless death is imminent. While the Church firmly believes in the sanctity of life, when it comes to the terminally ill, Catechism 2278 allows for discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome.
The Quran states that “it is not possible to die except with the leave of Allah, and at the appointed time”. Likewise “Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that do not die during their sleep”. As a general rule, Muslims should advance the best effort to maintain life, but may not introduce unbearable pain or suffering. Nutrition, hydration, and pain relief are to be provided, but when scientifically evaluated treatment is obviously futile and holds no promise, it ceases to be mandatory.
“God sends us and we take birth, God calls us back and we die.” A Sikh’s duty to someone who is dying is to care for them until God decides they die, not to hasten death. However, sickness is the will of God, and while one has to make an effort to get well, maintaining a terminal patient on artificial life support for a prolonged period in a vegetative state is not encouraged.
The Hindi faith’s tenet of reincarnation gives comfort to the dying, yet at the same time suggests that suffering leads to spiritual growth. While there is a lot of room for debate, the general guideline is that death should neither be sought nor prolonged. The terminally ill should be allowed to die a natural death, without experimental attempts at prolonging life or artificial means of shortening it, even if it would reduce the person’s pain and suffering. However, there is also the concept of Prayopavesa, or fasting to death, which is an acceptable way for a Hindu to end their life when the body has served its purpose and become a burden. When it comes to those in a vegetative state, it is unnecessary, and possibly inappropriate, to use artificial means to provide hydration and nutrition.
Pikuach Nefesh, or “saving a life” is paramount, and the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious consideration. When it comes to saving a life, a Jew may do almost anything, save for murder and Chillul Hashem. Jews may not do anything that would shorten life, and must take any action to prolong life. However, that only applies to a somewhat healthy person. If someone is expected to die imminently, they are Goses, and according to the Sefer Hasidim, nothing should be done to prolong their life or hasten their death. Contrast this with someone who is Terefah, meaning the person has an irreversible, terminal disease; Maimonides states that one who murders a terefah is exempt from human judgment, i.e. euthanasia is permissible. When it comes to those in a persistent vegetative state, the departure of the soul is becomes the moment of death. If a person cannot, and will never again be able to perform mitzvot, that person is no longer alive, and there is no obligation to support the body.
Buddhists regard death as a transition, the deceased person will be reborn to a new life. But a central tenet of Buddhism is non-harm, avoiding end of life. By implication, hastening the end of life is forbidden, but this prohibits deliberate attempts to destroy life, it does not require extreme lengths to preserve life at all costs. Medication and the proper use of pain killing drugs should enable a Buddhist to attain a state where they are not in mental pain. But at the same time, clarity of mind is important, and it is acceptable to refuse treatment that would cloud the mind. While there is a difference in interpretation between different streams of Buddhism, with Theravada taking a stricter approach to preserving life, and the Mahayana and Tibetan traditions placing more of an emphasis on compassion, there is a respect for the dying process, and efforts to maintain life beyond what is possible are not encouraged.