God’s Word teaches that human life is to be protected throughout its stages of development, growth, and decline. Unless God has made an allowance for or commanded it to occur, human life is not to be ended actively or passively by anyone. Rather, the clear will of God is to love all people as we have been loved, as witnessed in the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, as our Savior from sin. Even when life loses its earthly quality, we care for it as a precious gift from God, created by Him and redeemed by Him through Jesus. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are compelled to show concern not just for lives but especially for the souls of all people, including those who would advocate or assist in terminating life.
The active or passive ending of a life with specific intent to do so.
The intentional refusal to receive or administer necessary sustaining or curative treatment for the specific purpose of shortening life.
“Death with Dignity”; “Aid in Dying”; “Medical Aid in Dying”; “Mercy Killing”; “Pulling the Plug”; “Good Death”; “Termination of Life on Request”; “Physician-Hastened Death”; “Doctor Prescribed Suicide”; “Forced Exit”; “Duty to Die”; “PAS” (Physician-Assisted Suicide)
Euthanasia is the term used to describe efforts to terminate life when deemed to have little functional value and/or is filled with pain. Those in diminished health or in a chronic or terminal condition may request assistance to end their lives, contending their lives lack “quality” (purposelessness in life) or feel they have become burdensome on others. Some, wanting relief from pain and in despair, seek assisted death rather than palliative care. Data consistently shows pain or symptom control not to be a predominant narrative for a request of assisted death, but rather the loss of autonomy, loss of dignity, and the inability to engage in enjoyable activities. In other words, the timing of one’s death trumps relief from pain.
Worldview Arguments against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide:
(1) “It’s offensive” – suicide devalues human life; (2) “It’s a slippery slope” – the limits on euthanasia continue to erode, devaluing segments of the population; (3) “Pain can be alleviated” – palliative care and other therapeutics can adequately manage pain; (4) “It undermines the trust placed in doctors” – assisted suicide violates the integrity of the physician and undermines the trust patients placed in physicians to heal and not to harm.
Christian Perspective in Opposition of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide:
“Any practice of euthanasia, the intent of which is to shorten one’s own life or the life of another person, is a practice condemned by the Word of God and therefore is wrong. All people are to protect life and carry the burdens of others. Apart from God’s expressed permission, it is wrong to take human life, even when we do not like the quality of that life.” (CLR’s Position Statement on Euthanasia)
ANSWER: Voluntary euthanasia involves a competent and stated desire for someone to have his or her life terminated. Non-voluntary euthanasia pertains to the termination of someone’s life by another without the patient’s knowledge or consent.
ANSWER: Many advocates of euthanasia do not merely settle for the right to commit suicide. The methods employed by people to end their lives often do not work and leave the person in worse shape than before a suicide attempt. Rather, euthanasia advocates argue for the right to seek out a qualified physician to help terminate a person’s life. The argument is that physicians know the best means of maintaining and stopping human life most effectively. In light of that fact, many who wish to commit suicide want to be sure they do it right and therefore request the assistance of a physician to make sure they die.
ANSWER: There are three distinct elements in this question that each need to be understood within the context of Christian decision-making. First of all, this is a “loved one.” As such, there is deep-seated emotion at work. Doctors often will not provide medical care to close family members because they recognize that they would lack the necessary objectivity to always do what is right. Their familiarity and empathy with a loved one would cloud their judgment. So also, while many of us must make medical decisions for loved ones, the hard decisions are often best made after consultation with objective sources.
Secondly, there is pain and suffering. Some medical experts claim that the problem with modern medicine is that practitioners are poorly trained in pain management. In fact, some say that if a patient complains to his doctor of persistent pain it might be time to get a new doctor. A Christian will want to do all within his right to alleviate the pain. That should be the primary focus of this concern.
Finally, to seek the “better” route presumes that choices are made between two or more options. What defines “better” for the Christian is not what makes us happy or even what makes the patient happy – it is what makes God happy. To know that we must look at God’s Word. From His Word, we learn that suffering is a part of life. In fact, it often serves some very important purposes by making us mindful of God, giving us the opportunity to praise God, and helping us to realign our priorities as we care for the suffering. So one cannot claim that he or she has some sort of “right” to be free of suffering. God may be using it for a very specific purpose.
Additionally, the implied suggestion is that the preferred option is ceasing care or treatment with the specific purpose of causing death. It is not “better” to do that which is contrary to the will of God. To take specific action or to neglect specific care or treatment with the purpose to bring life to an end is wrong and, for the Christian, not an option.
How do you deal with a euthanasia-minded friend of acquaintance? The issues are so emotional, and the arguments sound compassionate. Nevertheless, we are considering ending a person’s life. Obviously, it is critical that you know the issues and how to respond to the rhetoric. Here are some ideas:
COMMENT: “I just can’t stand to see my loved one in pain. It’s more loving to end the suffering than to prolong their lives unnecessarily.”
This comment is similar to, “We treat our pets better than our family members,” because we put our pets to sleep and end their misery. Actually, we should never treat our family like animals. God demands more from us.
A good example to follow is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) which tells us to provide loving care for others, even when they are near death.
RESPONSE: No one wants to see a loved one suffer. Yet, our caring attitude should provide relief from the pain without killing the patient. God has complete authority over life and death, and we know that His love is perfect.
Remember that suffering is a result of sin. God does not rejoice in our suffering, but He does give us the opportunity to reflect our faith by caring for our loved ones when they are dealing with pain. Also, remember that modern medicine is able to control virtually any pain so taking a person’s life is not the best solution to ending the suffering.
COMMENT: “It just doesn’t make sense to keep someone alive when their quality of life is gone. I don’t think that is the way people want to live the last days of their lives.”
It is interesting to ask people their definition of “quality of life.” It is surprising how many different opinions you get. For some, quality of life means the ability to run up and down a basketball court while others define it as an ability to contribute to society. A common thread through all the definitions is a feeling of general happiness in life.
It would be interesting to hear what Jesus would have given as a definition. He certainly healed many people and had compassion for their infirmities. Yet the ones who concerned Him the most seemed to be those who were misguided in their attitudes. The rich man in Matthew 19, King Herod, and the Pharisees were just some examples. According to some definitions, their quality of life was very good, but the true value of their lives was empty.
RESPONSE: Regardless of any perceived quality of life, the truth is that we all have absolute value through the life and death of our Savior Jesus Christ. The role of loves ones is to provide the dignity and respect that is due to a redeemed child of God. That includes accepting God as the One who makes the final decisions on life and death.
This question should not be related to the quality of a person’s life. The goal is not a dignified death. the fact is that, regardless of the quality of life, people should use their lives to give glory to God. Even when people are suffering or the quality of their lives diminishes, they can still give a wonderful Christian witness and lead others to the Gospel.
COMMENT: “I know my loved one is dying, but there are still some steps I can take to keep him alive just a little longer.”
At no time should Christians feels they must do anything and everything to keep a loved one alive. When it is clear that God is taking a life, our faith leads us to accept the will of God, even if we don’t like it.
Regardless of what we do, there are times when God takes the lives of people. It is a reality even if one more medication is given or one more treatment is administered – the patient is going to die. At that time, it is better to accept the fact that God is taking that life rather than trying to fight it.
RESPONSE: We do not have the right to end life prematurely. Nor do we have the responsibility to prolong the dying process.
At times, Christians equate love and care with doing everything possible to keep the patient alive. Once it is clear that God is taking our loved one, it is actually a clearer witness to accept God’s decision and act accordingly. Although you want to provide the best care you can, it is also necessary to know when to discontinue treatment because it is futile.
In summary, different circumstances require different approaches. The directive, however, is to use unchangeable Biblical principles and apply them to each situation as you are guided by a godly motivation.