Care, Not Suicide: Choosing a Medical Directive That Witnesses to Your Faith
You can choose a medical directive statement that will witness to your faith.
Sooner or later you will face the question, “Do you have a medical directive statement?” Or more specifically, “Do you have a living will?” These are routine questions for anyone entering a hospital or nursing home. Such documents spell out the medical care you want (or don’t want) should you become unable to make decisions.
In today’s world, I have no use for most living wills, but I am inclined to look more favorably upon some medical directive statements.
God Gives Us Life and Responsibility to Care for It
Christians are stewards of the blessings God gives. One of these blessings is the gift of life. Remember the good Samaritan. God wants us to care for human life. On the last day Jesus will welcome believers, “blessed by my Father,” to “take [their eternal] inheritance.” And he will identify deeds of faith that have helped the lives of others: feeding, clothing, visiting. In Genesis 9:5, he warns, “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. . . . And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.”
God calls us to care for the blessing of human life. In that connection, we can reexamine medical directive statements for today.
The first high profile medical directive statement that captured the public’s attention was the living will. Euthanasia advocacy groups heavily endorsed this type of document. In contrast to a society that functions with a presumed desire to live, the living will carried the obvious bias to die. Basically it instructed medical personnel not to take certain action or provide certain care if the sustained life lacks a level of desired quality. In essence, living wills became a contemporary forbidden fruit, authorizing us to become lord and master over life and death — a right distinctly reserved for God.
That’s why I discourage Christians from using living wills. However, my feelings on medical directive statements have changed.
A Medical Directive Statement Can Help Preserve the Sanctity of Life
A subtle change has taken place in our medical institutions. In the absence of a medical directive statement, a patient is subject to the policies and practices of institutions, which vary significantly. Many institutions now adopt a presumption-to-die mentality masked with such euphemistic terms as “comfort and care.” Such terms mean health care providers will try to keep you comfortable once a decision has been made to stop feeding you.
To combat this new mentality, I suggest a medical directive statement that allows you to provide more comprehensive instruction on your medical care. It also allows you to designate a health care surrogate who can provide direction to the medical staff when you cannot. These documents are specifically designed for selecting a health care surrogate or power of attorney for health care. You should appoint you surrogate with utmost care — someone you trust with your life and who shares your religious convictions.
These medical directive documents provide you, a Christian, the wonderful opportunity to witness to your faith concerning life, health, and salvation. In most cases people retain the services of an attorney to draw up such documents. That works, though most public attorneys show little skill in weaving Christian testimony into such a document.
You Can Act Now
At Christian Life Resources we have done the weaving. We have developed documents that conform with a majority of state statutes on medical directives and provide a clear profession of faith. If you purchase these documents, you will not need legal counsel to complete the document. Christian Life Resources has used attorneys from around the country to create these documents. An accompanying “Explanatory Supplement” instructs individuals on how to fill one out. Most important, this supplemental piece will not merely tell you what option to select, but will explain why you should select an option.
Click here if you wish to download this document.
When abortion became legalized in 1973, many claimed it was the beginning of a slippery slope of the eroding value of life. The trend in medicine and medical directive statements reflects this slide. If there is ever a time to give a clear and correct Christian witness on life issues, now is the time.
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell* didn’t have medical directive statements. When Mr. Mitchell went to the hospital, he expressed his wishes orally, but the doctor didn’t comply. Instead he ended up on a respirator and had IVs he didn’t want, and in fact, were not necessary. He died, ten days later, in the hospital.
Mrs. Mitchell didn’t want to go through the same struggle.
“She looked at Christian Life Resources documents because she didn’t want mistreatment,” says John Seifert, former pastor at Good Shepherd, Midland, Mich. “With an attorney’s help, she had a durable power of attorney document drawn up.”
When Mrs. Mitchell went into the hospital she took the documents with her.
Yet, she ran into some difficulties: her doctor wanted to put her through the same procedures her husband had undergone. She wanted to go back home and be cared for there.
The doctor continued to pressure her. The attorney was called to look over her medical directive statement. Because she had the document, she didn’t need to go through any more tests — she could go home.
“The statement was helpful for her,” says Seifert. “It was drawn up when she was still in a state of mind to communicate and emphasize her desires and wishes.
“Death is not the last great enemy we fight at all costs,” Seifert continues. “She trusted in the Lord Jesus and was called home after a few days.”
* not their real names
Rev. Robert R. Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
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