Thinking Out Loud… about Assisted Dying
What would be unthinkable a generation ago is about to become law. Rather than being the protectors of life, attempting to hold death at bay, the role of a doctor is about to include the function of executioner. This is unconscionable. This “brave new world” of the 21st Century reflects a culture of death rather than life.
From a secular perspective this is understandable. When looking at the issue from the patient’s point of view alone, it could make sense. We want to be in full control of our body, and of our own life. However, in the public discourse, there is a point of view that is never considered. If we believe that God is the creator of life, then we respect him as the owner of life. Consequently, He alone has the right to end life because He ordained it. The Psalmist put it like this, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
Christians view human life as sacred and see the taking of another human life as murder. It’s true that modern medicine has complicated our world and our ethics. Expected life spans are much longer these days compared to any time in human history. I believe there comes a point where it’s appropriate to refuse further heroic medical treatments. But that’s very different than the active role that doctors may be called upon to intentionally end life.
Unfortunately, the train of “physician assisted suicide” has left the station and is barreling down the tracks at full speed. The bright beam of its headlamp is staring us in the face. The question for us is how should we respond? I’m not convinced that we can accomplish a reversal with campaigns and organized protests. The anticipated law reflects our secular culture where God is absent.
I do wonder if this is a God given opportunity for Christians to engage our community in new ways? Perhaps, we could form palliative teams to discourage those of our neighbours who feel pressured to end their life by providing alternative care. Perhaps, this is an occasion to engage our culture, by demonstrating our commitment to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Through the centuries, when plagues wiped out thousands, it was the Christians who stayed to care for the victims. Christians remained in the afflicted cities to help when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled. By their actions, in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbours that Christ is worth dying for. In the recent Ebola outbreaks in Africa, Christians were again on the front lines offering care. These are powerful testimonies for Christ. Perhaps, this is our occasion to show a better way.
There is no “dignified death” at the hands of a doctor. Voluntarily receiving a cocktail of drugs to hasten death is not dignified. As Christians, we submissively place ourselves in the hands of God, the creator and giver of life. When the days he ordained for us have ended, He will draw the curtain on our life by natural means. Like birth, that is a sacred moment, and it is dying with dignity.
From Ian Lawson, Lead Pastor, Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge
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