The Practical Approach to End-of-Life Issues: Conclusion

Close up hands of helping hands elderly home care. Mother and daughter. Mental health and elderly care concept

A Practical Approach to End-of-Life Issues
Presented by Rev. Robert R. Fleischmann

X. Conclusion

End-of-life issues are complex in that they often call for the application of many different biblical principles complicated by the addition of strong and sentimental emotions. There are situations where, in the application of these principles, two Christians can use the same principles and arrive at different conclusions for medical care and both be right. Motive becomes the major determinant.

I have encountered people who have arrived at the conclusion that they had done wrong in deciding medical care for a loved one. You also will encounter these people. When they approach me on it I point out a couple of things: 1) their motive was to do God’s will, but 2) in ignorance they made a mistake. God forgives!

We must not lose sight of the fact that we all sin with regard to life issues. We eat too much, or too little or the wrong stuff. We over-exert ourselves or don’t exercise enough. We develop habits which endanger our health. But in all of these circumstances, we can approach the throne of God, seek forgiveness, and confidently walk away forgiven through Christ. Those who fear they have wrongly made decisions that cost a loved one his life may cherish the same forgiveness. They also must not forget how God uses even the wrong actions of his children for the good of his children.

My final advice to you is to educate your members now, outside of a crisis, on this matter. Encourage them to seek out guidance from God’s Word, to discuss it with you, and then to discuss it with their loved ones. Most importantly, condition them to ask “what would God have me to do” in these issues and all issues. To him be the glory now and forever!

ENDNOTES:

  1. Humphry, Derek, “Final Exit – The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Suicide for the Dying,” The Hemlock Society, 1991.
  2. From a story released by the Associated Press news service dated December 12, 1994. I saw the story first published in the December 12, 1994 issue of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  3. Humanist Manifesto III, Fifth.
  4. Ibid, Sixth.
  5. On the issue of capital punishment, there are differences in the religious and pro-life communities. Most recently, the Evangelium Vitae encyclical released on March 30, 1995, reiterated the Roman Catholic opposition to the death penalty in section 56 when it stated:
    It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent. In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”

    The logic for this position is fascinating but I am not convinced it adequately addresses the Genesis 9:6 reference and the intent behind it as expressed by God.

  6. Loma Linda neonatal care unit had explored using anencephalic children as organ donors. On termination of the program the August 19, 1988 issue of the L.A. Times carried the following story (excerpts):
    “Caring for the severely deformed infants has been ‘incredibly difficult’ for intensive-care unit nurses, as well as some physicians, according to [Dr. Joyce L.] Peabody, who is in charge of the program…In one case, Peabody said, a baby who appeared to be a suitable candidate for organ donation had to be withdrawn after the physician ‘started to cry and became very uncomfortable with the experience’…Loma Linda physicians had hoped that the babies could be declared brain dead while their heart, liver and other organs remained undamaged and suitable for transplantation.
  7. The case of Baby Theresa who was born anencephalic on March 21, 1992, reopened the debate on using such children for organ donations. Attorneys for the parents argued that allowing for organ transplantation from an anencephalic child would bring some good from a child who otherwise had an existence that was “meaningless” because she had no “potential” and was going to die “imminently.” (National Right to Life News, 9/15/92 and 12/14/92)
  8. Part of the Omnibus Reconciliation Act 1990, title IV, section 4206. Congressional Record. October 26, 1990:12638.

The above article is part 10 of Rev. Fleischmann’s 10-part paper. Click here to view the complete outline.

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