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End of Life: Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. Philip Thompson Professor of Bible, Harding University Preacher, Rose Bud Church of Christ. End of Life: Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. Philip Thompson Professor of Bible, Harding University
“Condemned to Life”
The ability to prolong life (or to delay the dying process) in increasingly poor quality of life circumstances
Euthanasia = “Good death,” which for proponents of euthanasia means death without pain and suffering
From a biblical perspective, what is a “good death”?
Is a “good death” necessarily or merely a death without pain and suffering?
Voluntary:at the patient’s request
Involuntary: against the wishes of the patient
Non-voluntary: without the knowledge or consent of the patient
“Acting to cause death”
Intentionally and directly causing death; typically by a lethal injection of drugs
The patient is killed by the direct action of the physician.
Currently illegal in all 50 states in the U.S.
Better terminology: “Letting die” or “choosing not to prolong the dying process"
Withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging technologies in order to allow the patient to die naturally.
The underlying disease or injury is the medical cause of death.
Vitalism:The belief that doing everything possible to squeeze out every minute of life – regardless of the medical circumstances – has value and is required.
When cure is no longer possible, is it permissible for a Christian to surrender to the disease, back away, and allow death to run its natural course?
Helping listeners to differentiate active euthanasia and passive euthanasia (“letting die”) may be the most critical task in preaching on end of life issues.
A sermon titled “Is it Wrong to Let Go?” could bring clarity to the difference between VAE/PAS and vitalism.
At the patient’s request, a physician directly and intentionally administers a lethal dose of medication. This act is the medical cause of death.
VAE is illegal in all 50 states in the U.S.
VAE is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
The physician provides a medical means (a prescription for a lethal dose of medication) by which a patient can take his own life.
Death is caused directly by the lethal medication and not by the underlying disease or injury.
PAS is legal in Oregonand Washington(Ballot) Montana (Court), and Vermont(Legislature).
Decreasing ability to engage in activities making life enjoyable – 90% (OR); 89% (WA)
Loss of autonomy – 89% (OR); 88% (WA)
Loss of dignity – 75% (OR); 79% (WA)
God’s role in life and death: God determines the beginning and end of life.
Sanctity of human life: Human beings are imagers of God
The human being as the image of God: Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2; 9:6
God determines the beginning and end of life: Heb. 9:27
Self autonomy and determination – Our bodies are not our own: 1 Cor. 6:19-20
Responding to suffering: 2 Cor. 4:7-12; 12:7-10; Phil. 1:20-24; James 1:2-12
Preferring death but deciding to live: 2 Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:20-24
Longing for the redemption of the body: Rom. 8:22-25; 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 53-57; Phil. 3:20-21; Rev. 21:4
These principles furnish the main substance of sermons on VAE and PAS.
For example, a sermon that stresses one principle: “Life and Death are in God’s hands.”
Life as gift and death as a conquered enemy
Living (and dying) with an “eschatological horizon” in view
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…an eternal weight of glory…what is unseen is eternal.” (4:16-18)
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God…” (5:1-10)
“…he too shared in their humanity that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…” (2:14-15)
“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one…” (11:16)
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope…”
“…so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body…” (1:20-26)
“But our citizenship is in heaven…” (3:20)
remembering God’s past deeds
Lament belongs to the whole story of Jesus
Compassion as discipleship