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Objections to Assisted Suicide

Requests for voluntary euthanasia are extremely rare in situations where the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients are properly met. As the symptoms which prompt the request for euthanasia can be almost always managed with therapies currently available, our highest priority must be to ensure that top quality terminal care is readily available. While recognizing the importance of individual patient autonomy, history has clearly demonstrated that legalized euthanasia poses serious risks to society as a whole.

First of all, voluntary euthanasia is unnecessary because alternative treatments exist. It is widely believed that there are only two options open to patients with terminal illness: either they die slowly in unrelieved suffering or they receive euthanasia. In fact, there is a middle way, that of creative and compassionate caring. Meticulous research in palliative medicine has in recent years shown that virtually all unpleasant symptoms experienced in the process of terminal illness can be either relieved or substantially alleviated by techniques already available.

This has had its practical expression in the hospice movement, which has enabled patients’ symptoms to be managed either at home or in the context of a caring in-patient facility. It is no surprise that in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is now accepted, there is only a very rudimentary hospice movement. By contrast, in the UK, which has well developed facilities to care specifically for the terminally ill, a House of Lords committee recently ruled that there should be no change in the law to allow euthanasia.[1] This is not to deny that there are many patients presently dying in homes and hospitals who are not benefiting from these advances. There are indeed many having suboptimal care. This is usually because facilities do not exist in the immediate area or because local medical practitioners lack the training and skills necessary to manage terminally ill patients properly. The solution to this is to make appropriate and effective care and training more widely available, not to give doctors the easy option of euthanasia. A law enabling euthanasia will undermine individual and corporate incentives for creative caring.

2. Requests for voluntary euthanasia are rarely free and voluntary. A patient with a terminal illness is vulnerable. He lacks the knowledge and skills to alleviate his own symptoms, and may well be suffering from fear about the future and anxiety about the effect his illness is having on others.

A Christian has No Freedom To Die

For a Christian There is No Freedom To Die

“Freedom” is a highly cherished value in our society, not only in all aspects of life, but increasingly in aspects of death as well. The chant, “My life is mine” has also become, “My death is mine.” There is a move in our country and in the world to permit the terminally ill to end their lives through euthanasia. Some claim that it is the ultimate civil liberty to decide the time and manner of one’s own death.

For a Christian, however, is “my life” really “mine”? Is my death really mine? The answer has to be yes and no. It is mine in the sense that it has been given to me and nobody else; it is not mine alone, however, because I am not the source of my own existence, and I am accountable for it to another, namely, God. “You are not your own,” St. Paul declares (1 Cor. 6:19). “If we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we are responsible to the Lord. Both in life and in death we belong to the Lord.”(Romans 14:18). Not one of us decided the time or manner in which we came into this world. Our life is a sacred gift from God, and only He can give it. It is therefore His right alone to take us out of this world.

We do not possess a “right to die.” A right is a moral claim. We do not have a claim on death; rather, death has a claim on us! Some see the “right to die” as parallel to the “right to life.” In fact, however, they are opposite. The “right to life” is based on the fact that life is a gift which we do not possess as a piece of property (which we can purchase or sell or give away or destroy at will), but rather is an inviolable right. It cannot be taken away by another or by the person him/herself. The “right to die” is based, rather, on…

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…eir emotional and spiritual needs even in the worst physical conditions. To give “dignity” to the dying is to always respect them as human persons with an eternal destiny, not to push for the option to kill them. A Christian, moreover, knows that suffering is not meaningless. It was by his suffering and cross that Christ redeemed the world. A Christian joins his/her suffering to Christ’s, and has a part to play in saving the world as well.

One of the leading advocates of euthanasia, Derek Humphrey, writes, “The 1990’s is the decade when the issue of voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill will be decided” (Dying 19)Christians must become more informed on this issue, and speak and act so that the issue is not only decided, but decided rightly. May God give us the wisdom and strength we will need.


Humphry, Dererk. Dying With Dignity

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