Dying to Go?

By Not Known

Advances in medicine mean that we now have increasing control over both ends of human life. Children who were once inconceivable are now healthy toddlers. The timing and manner of death is now more manageable. However, increasing control also means increasing dilemmas.

Euthanasia is back in public discussion. Consider these scenes …

  • Uncle Jack is in the last stage of a terminal illness. The family say their farewells, request no extra treatment and he passes away.

  • Uncle Jack still has days to live but he is given medication to stop vital functions and passes away.

There is a vast difference between these two scenes. The first is a decision not to prolong the dying process and is akin to the prayer ‘Your will be done. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord‘. Many of us have been part of these decisions and may even have provided for it through an Advance Medical Directive. This is not euthanasia.

The second scene involves intentional acts to end a life. It is not an action that leaves the life in God’s hands, but is an act that asserts ‘my will be done‘ – whether the ‘will‘ is that of the patient, the family or the doctors. This is euthanasia and raises serious Christian issues.

The Bible teaches that all human life comes from God – it is his to give and take (Gen 1 :26-27; Job 1: 21; Ps 100: 3). Because all human life bears God’s image it has a sacred quality and God calls us to account for any wilful taking of a human life (Gen 9:5-6). We are to help the gravely ill and not harm them. Euthanasia is ‘not on‘.

The medical and family issues associated with death are complex and the line between allowing someone to die and hastening their death can be blurred. Families do well to consider these issues in advance, seek competent advice (perhaps including a pastor) and take their time.

However it is basic to a Christian view of life’s beginning and ending that it is God’s life and not ours. Let’s set our moral compass around this point and encourage others to do the same.