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SEEK 15 – Euthanasia
Question: Why can’t terminally ill people be killed and put out of their misery? We do it for pets, why not humans?
Bible Reading: Revelation 21:1-4
Text: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
“A generation ago, murder was rare, abortion was illegal and euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide was unthinkable. Now murder is frequent, abortion is ‘normal’ and euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is legal in some places.” (Kieran Beville)
There has been an enormous change in public ethics in the Western world in the past few decades. These changes continue. As we move away from Christian foundations we are regressing to a Greco/Roman pagan view of the world, rather than progressing to a new utopia.
Euthanasia is one of those issues. Given the way our society thinks and the way that the case for euthanasia is put forward (even changing the name to physician-assisted suicide or other such euphemisms as ‘dignity in dying’), it is little wonder that young people especially find the case compelling.
A pastor went into a University in Scotland to take part in a debate on this subject. He was up against it. The motion was worded in his opponent’s favour – who was in turn a government expert on the subject. In the vote before the debate the vast majority of people approved of the motion supporting euthanasia. But afterwards there had been a significant change – the numbers were almost even. One of the lecturers complained afterwards: “This is a liberal University – I have never seen students change their minds like that – that should not happen”. It was pointed out to him that one of the reasons that so many students had changed their mind is because they had never heard the other side of the
Which is why your question is so revealing. You talk of people being put out of their misery, just as an animal can be put out of its misery. But do we really want to treat humans like dogs? I had a dog that had to be put down because it started ‘sheep worrying’. It was heart-breaking. But if one of my children started doing something that was wrong, I would not suggest putting them down! We don’t treat humans like animals! Now, I realise the situation is vastly different, but we are talking about the taking of human life – and all the risks that go along with that.
There is way more to this than can be dealt with in this short answer – but I would you read the recommended book below. But let me offer some brief observations.
In the Second World War the Nazis ordered Dutch doctors to euthanise the disabled and others. The doctors all refused. Move forward 75 years and now we have Dutch doctors doing what some Nazi doctors were found guilty of in a court of law. Although the idea behind euthanasia is compassion – ‘compassion’ without Christ and the biblical understanding of life often leads to the Nazi idea.
Some people don’t like this ‘slippery slope’ argument. But we see it all the time. For example, abortion was supposed to be rare, safe and limited to clearly defined circumstances such as a threat to the life of the mother. But that quickly degenerated to abortion on demand. When you give up the commandment ‘you shall not kill’, then you open the door to increased killing. Just look at the situation in the Netherlands where voluntary euthanasia has quickly turned into involuntary euthanasia. Doctors are now killing those whom they determine might have a lesser quality of life – without their permission. What is happening in Canada just now is especially .
Another concern is that those who talk about ‘the right to die’ see it as a principle of empowerment. But who is being empowered? The family who don’t want to see their relatives suffer or their inheritance squandered? The doctors? The hospitals who don’t want the elderly or disabled taking up valuable bed space? The drug companies?
But don’t we want to care for those who are suffering? Absolutely. We need to offer great palliative care, to alleviate suffering and to pray. And remember this – each dying person has an eternal soul and is going to an eternal destiny. If we kill someone, we could be sending them to greater suffering! We want them to go to the situation described in Revelation 21. Remember that care for the person includes care for their souls. Our motto should be care not killing.
Consider: How do you think we could care for the dying and suffering – other than euthanasia? What are the dangers of a society which allows euthanasia?
Further Reading: There are some really helpful articles from the Christian Medical Fellowship ie. https://www.cmf.org.uk/resources/publications/content/?context=article&id=26093
Dying to Kill – Kieran Beville
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Understanding Suicide and Euthanasia – D Eryl Davies
Prayer: O Lord, we long to be with you in the – where there will be no more death, pain, sorrow and suffering. We long for the old order of things to pass away. But meanwhile whilst we are on this earth – help us to treat people with dignity, to alleviate suffering and to proclaim you to them, in Christ’s Name, Amen.