Euthanasia seems to be re-surfacing in the news every other month, and I’ve had a few people ask me how a Christian view of compassion might fit with an opposition to mercy euthanasia. It is increasingly difficult to oppose euthanasia without sounding cruel and heartless. I think that one reason a Christian view on Euthanasia can be misunderstood, is because the Christian view of death is misunderstood. Below are a few thoughts that I have cobbled together.
1. Euthanasia contradicts God’s anger and opposition to death!
All through the bible, Death is depicted as an enemy. Now-a-days, it is common to speak about death as part of the “circle of life”. But God sees death as a violation of his good intentions for creation. In fact, Jesus OFFERED HIMSELF UP TO DEATH so that we could be freed from it’s grip! To say voluntary euthanasia is an act of compassion, is certainly understandable.
However it is also mistaken in thinking that Suffering, not Death, is the greatest enemy of humanity. Voluntary euthanasia certainly makes sense if this life is all there is, but Christians believe in a physical bodily resurrection…
this leads to my second point…
2. Jesus resurrection shows us that God has not given up on this broken world.
Some people think that God’s plan is just to destroy this world and move all “religious” people to heaven… No Way! God’s intention is to re-new heaven and earth. Jesus resurrection show that Death will not have the last word: We will be raised physically to live a physical, bodily life in a NEW CREATION… not in the clouds of heaven. God’s plan to deal with the brokenness of this world is not just to give us RELIEF from it… but to perfectly RENEW it. Resurrection, not an early death is God’s answer to this worlds brokenness.
God’s answer to suffering is to promise us victory over death… not relief in it.
3. Some who support Euthanasia also suggest that it should be allowed to protect the dignity of those dying.
I’ve had family who have died, who have not been able to control bowel movements, or speak properly, or feed themselves etc. Supporters of Euthanasia suggest that this experience of life is undignified, not worth protecting (but see my points 1 & 2). And yet there are many people who tragically live their entire lives in this way. When Oliver (my son) was born there was a chance that he’d have a disease which would mean he’d never have been able to control his bowel movements – Does that mean he would have lived a life without dignity? As it is, he’s perfectly fine, but even when I thought I’d be changing his nappy into his adult years, I never thought it would mean he was undignified.
If we allow supporters of Euthanasia (rather than God) to define what is and is not dignified life, then those who require full time care will learn to think of their lives as “UNDIGNIFIED”… Society will learn to think of the Old and Sick as undignified, and the value of their lives will slip in our eyes.
Euthanasia gives up on life, whereas God gave his own son to renew and restore it. The Gospel and Euthanasia have opposite attitudes to human existence. (although Euthanasia advocates would disagree with me) Euthanasia teaches us that some life is not worth protecting. Resurrection teaches us that all life is worth redeeming. Despair vs Hope. Pretty different ways of viewing human destiny.
On a practical note…
4. Voluntary Euthanasia requires governments to come up with a definition of what IS and IS NOT an acceptable “QUALITY OF LIFE”.
When is someone’s life of a “QUALITY” worth continuing, and when does the lack of that “QUALITY” make life valueless? The problem is that many people experience a very poor “QUALITY OF LIFE” due to lifelong mental or physical sickness or handicap. Does this mean that the lives of these people are not worth living. Once the Law lays down what is and is not a valuable “QUALITY” of life, society will change their attitudes to match.
This has already happened in regards to abortion. Because of a possibility that Oliver had a genetic disease, we were asked if we wanted to abort him. I have had friends who were told that they were foolish for NOT aborting their Children. My guess is that if Euthanasia was allowed, even the elderly would naturally start to question the value of their own lives.
I want to grow old in a world where the value of every life is held to fiercely, not in stubborn resistance against death, but in joyful hope of the resurrection.
I’ve included a link below to the text of a talk Peter Jensen gave on the topic at Westmead hospital. I have not read it yet, but I’m sure he has some insightful things to say.