Euthanasia

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The attitude that ‘it’s my life and my body’ is frequently used not only to sanction abortion, but also assisted suicide. It fails to consider how an ‘autonomous’ choice has a profound impact on others.

Dr. William Toffler, MD, an Oregon physician, recognizes how important it is to listen for what is not being said. How well physicians listen and respond to their patients "has a profound effect... on their view of themselves and their inherent worth."

If unbearable pain was the main reason people chose assisted suicide, we would naturally look to doctors to fix the problem. But it’s not the main reason. Unbearable pain doesn’t even rank as one of the top five.

Other than perhaps Kumbaya, it's difficult to find a hymn or gospel song strongly emphasizing brotherly care -- especially ones that so powerfully creates a picture for us of carrying one another on this long journey of life. Most of our hymns (very appropriately) sing to or about God, but isn't the second greatest commandment something to sing about as well?

Once upon a time not that long ago “everyone” knew with scientific certainty that human life began at conception. A mere three years after this editorial was written, “semantic gymnastics” made abortion-on-demand the law of the land. Would that pro-death people today could be as honest and forthright about their tactics. 

Oh hold them back!

With the stroke of a pen, California governor Jerry Brown on Monday approved assisted suicide in his state. With Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana, 10% of the country now has the right to expect doctors to help them die.

This is not only a problem for doctors. Patients – especially the disabled – will be more vulnerable. They will feel a duty to die. This is why doctor groups and disability advocates oppose assisted suicide.

Death is insatiable. We know this as a spiritual reality, but it’s also a historical phenomenon. In Europe, the euthanasia slippery slope looks like this: It began with the legalization of assisted suicide for the terminally ill, and then involuntary euthanasia for the mentally incompetent was added. Later they allowed anyone age 12 and over who’s suffering to request “aid in dying,” and now a Dutch pediatrician wants to erase the age limit.

As we know, death is not the answer to suffering. We live by God’s grace; by His compassion, we assist those who are struggling.

This is why it’s so crucial that churches be equipped to offer support to the elderly and terminally ill. Through LIFT, Life Matters Worldwide offers a Christian response to suffering. LIFT is Living in Faith Together. Churches adopting the LIFT program help each other live out their days without fear and without succumbing to the world’s “wisdom.”

We've used the passage from Proverbs 24 to urge action on abortion. It fits here, too:

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?

And will He not render to man according to his work?

Related reading:
Assisted suicide increases other suicides
What's really needed is access to palliative care sooner: here and here

  • Suicide or assisted suicide?

  • Experiments with animals or embryos?

  • Having sex outside the bonds of marriage or having a baby out of wedlock?

Since about 2001, the Gallup News Service has been tracking American beliefs about various moral issues. They ask people whether an issue is morally acceptable, morally wrong, or not a moral issue at all. Not only is it interesting to see how viewpoints have changed, but how responses can be ranked in relation to one another.

For instance, the latest results reveal that only 19% of Americans think suicide is acceptable, but 52% agree assisted suicide is okay. Essentially this says if a young, healthy person wants to kill himself we should try to prevent it, but if someone old or sick is suicidal we should help him die. Do you see what’s wrong with that picture? 

It's fairly obvious that Americans have become tolerant of what was formerly unthinkable. Would it surprise you to learn that people are more comfortable with medical research that destroys human embryos than they are with experiments on animals (65% to 57%)? 

According to recent results, having a baby outside marriage is less acceptable than the act between unmarried partners that leads to such a pregnancy (58% to 66%). The implication is that you can have sex outside marriage, just don't bring any resulting babies into the world. 

Something is out of whack. Our nation’s moral compass is clearly “off.” We do not value human life the way we once did.

Jesus looked at a crowd of people one day and likened them to “sheep without a shepherd.” Our society fits that description, doesn't it? And, while we might be tempted to shake our heads and mutter "tsk, tsk," we don't have that luxury. We must do as Jesus did -- feel compassion for the lost and carry on teaching them.  

Support for Life Matters Worldwide enables us to produce teaching materials addressing matters of life and purity. I invite you to browse store.lifemattersww.org for resources such as Powered by God curriculum for children and LIFT (Living in Faith Together) for end-of-life caregiving. And if we can help you another way, please let us know.


Source material -- Gallup Poll Social Series: Values and Beliefs, Gallup News Service, May 8-11, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/file/poll/170798/Moral_Acceptability_140530.pdf, http://www.gallup.com/poll/170789/new-record-highs-moral-acceptability.aspx; accessed 7/7/2014.

A year ago, a team from Life Matters Worldwide ventured to the Philippines to conduct trainings for LIFT ministry. One of the participants was Lalaine Mirasol, a widowed mother with two sons. 

From that training, God lit a fire in her -- or as she would say -- LIFT became part of her DNA.

Working with Dr. Mae Corvera (in light blue), Lalaine (far left) helped start the Ruth Foundation for Palliative and Hospice Care in Manila. She serves as its Community Relations Officer. Now based in Baguio City, similar work is underway. 

She tells the story of helping an elderly cancer patient. "A month ago, I regularly visited her to share the Gospel, and she received Jesus as her Lord and Savior. During her last breath, I asked her, is there anything you want, or that you want to see? She smiled and said, 'I'm happy now. Thank you so much, Lalaine!'"

Even though she's not a singer, Lalaine sang for her:

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow." Then, with a smile on her face and holding Lalaine's hand, the woman took her final breath. Tears of joy filled Lalaine's heart.

Is it any wonder that, with experiences like this, LIFT would become such a passion in her life? 

You can help Lalaine by praying for her. In addition to caring for her own mother (pictured with Lalaine at right), she has many hopes and dreams for LIFT to flourish in Baguio. As she waits for God to guide and provide, she prays He will lead her to "the right local church and people who are interested and have willing hearts to obey the Great Commission through LIFT training."

On Sunday of the prayer calendar this week we prayed for LIFT at Jenison Bible Church in Jenison, Michigan. Karen has been the coordinator of that ministry, but she's stepping down because she and her husband are facing their own medical challenges. She's asked prayer for more volunteers and for someone to fill her role.

It's fitting to focus on this at-home ministry today since we made a pretty big splash a few days ago reporting on the LIFT trainings that occurred in the Philippines over the past week. Dr. Mae Corvera and her team have developed a thriving ministry that is bearing fruit and serving as a model for ministry in other parts of that country.

Life Matters would like to see more churches in the U.S. develop LIFT programs. For that to happen, we'd probably need to devote a staff person to to the tasks of contacting pastors, recruiting, training, and consulting with coordinators, and hosting LIFT conferences like the one at which we met Karen several years ago. Will you pray with us toward that end?

Time was when pet euthanasia was used as a rational for people euthanasia. The logic went something like this: If we can put a dog or cat out of its misery, why can't we do the same for humans?

[For examples of this sentiment, see the following articles: Pro-euthanasia ads air on Australian TV, Is euthanasia for the living or the dying? and Dutch Euthanasia.]

While the pro-life side appreciated the ever-so-slight acknowledgment that human beings deserve better treatment than dogs and cats (that was the intent, right?), we reject the rationale. Human beings stand above the animal world as imagers of God. (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:2-4; Psalm 8:6-8)

The death of animals is morally neutral, while that of humans requires scrutiny. In Genesis 9:5-6, God made animals accountable for the death of humans, not the other way around.

"Better" treatment of human beings, in our view, involves easing suffering -- through  palliative care and hospice ministries that affirm every patient's worth as valuable to God -- not ending it by killing the sufferer. Our LIFT program trains Christians to do that for fellow-church members and others.

So now it's amusing to read about a new twist on the old argument. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, dying pets are receiving palliative care rather than euthanasia. In 'It's Just a Dog. Get Over It.', Jessica Pierce writes about how the line is being blurred between pets and other family members. Owners are shelling out big bucks to provide pets with care from one of the approximately 75 veterinary hospice services available around the country.

"Once euthanasia was the default response to an animal's mortal illness. Not any more. . . . Working together, pet owners and veterinarians can often maintain a good quality of life for an animal long after we might, in past times, have simply euthanized it."

Will this mean the end of the euthanasia-for-people argument? Will euthanasia advocates now say, "If we can give pets life-affirming care like hospice, why can't we do the same for humans?" One would hope so, yet it would be sadly ironic that it would take uber-love for pets to get us to view people from the proper perspective.

It's too late for those who have been legally euthanized in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands. And in Oregon and Washington state. (Click the above links for the latest statistics.) Here's some commentary from those who have digested the figures:

  • There have been 5,500 cases of euthanasia in 10 years of legal euthanasia in Belgium. The European Institute for Bioethics raises serious questions about the practice, including how intertwined it is with organ retrieval for transplants. Wesley Smith says Belgium has gone "off the moral cliff."
  • The Netherlands prize their euthanasia efficiency, but Dr. Bernard Lo questions the extent of government oversight in a recent Lancet article, (volume 380, issue 9845, pages 869-870, 8 September 2012, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61128-3). Alex Schadenberg says euthanasia there is "out of control."
  • The Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation bemoans the steady increase in numbers of physician-assisted suicides in Oregon and the lack of transparency in the process. (This seems to be a common theme.)
  • Washington is the latest arrival to the euthanasia scene, but it appears to be surpassing Oregon in numbers, according to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church. 

Postscript: Get ready for the next assault on the sanctity of human life -- plant rights! See Pea Personhood? and, for the inevitable twist, Why Did We Ever Start Calling Patients “Vegetables?”

This just in (3/8/13): Someone in the UK says disabled children are too costly, and should be 'put down.' Horrible! See also We Already 'Put Down' the Disabled!

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