Monday, November 10, 2014

Physician Assisted Suicide

“Man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away.  A man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.” –Plato, Dialogues 

    “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NIV).
You may have followed the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman who died on Saturday, November 1, from a physician assisted suicide.  Because of her story, this vivacious young woman has become the face of a growing “Right to Die with dignity” movement in this country.  Early this year, while living in California, Brittany was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and given only months to live.  She moved to Oregon where state law allows the terminally ill to voluntarily choose to “die with dignity” from lethal medications provided by a physician.  Oregon is one of only a few states with laws allowing physicians to assist patients in taking their own lives.  This is a very emotional topic of debate with compelling arguments on both sides.   
The Scriptures reveal six people who resorted to suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4–6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:5). Samson is not included in this list because even though he was killed by his actions, his motive was to kill philistines, not himself. (Judges 16:26–31).
To my knowledge, the Bible is silent on the specific issue of assisted suicide; however, suicide is suicide, assisted or not.  Christianity has historically viewed our text, one of the original Ten Commandments, as prohibiting the taking of human life -- committing murder.  This interpretation, envisions suicide as self-murder.  This view is predicated on God being the only one with the authority to decide when and how a person should die.  This view allows us to say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).  God is seen as both the giver and taker of life.  “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own”  (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV).  Suicide is wrong because it rejects God’s gift of life and the sanctity thereof.  No one should try to assume God’s authority for themselves.

After seeking God’s will, the person contemplating suicide should also consider the pain and grief that such action will inflict upon family members and close friends.  It seems selfish to live or die based solely on what works best for me without consideration of God’s will and being sensitive to the feelings of others.  For Christians, the following puts our lives in perspective:  For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord”  (Romans 14:7-8 NLT). 
Back to Brittany.  No doubt she was facing a horrible death with great suffering, and to die painlessly at a time of her own choosing appears to be a desirable alternative.  I’m sure we all sympathize with her and would support her dying naturally as painlessly as possible.  As Christians, we must base our opinions on God’s Word, and we should seek His will in all situations.  Even where assisted suicide is allowed by law, leaving God out of the decision-making process cannot bring glory to Him as the giver and sustainer of life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse


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