Euthanasia

Introduction

Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a patient by act or omission as part of their medical treatment when the patient’s life is felt not to be worth living.  It is currently illegal in the UK, and in most nations, but there is pressure to legalise it.

Lord Joffe's Bill

In 2006 the House of Lords blocked the latest attempt to legalise it.  The ‘Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill’ Bill, put forward by Lord Joffe, wanted to allow competent terminally ill patients to end their lives with an injection or medication supplied by a doctor.  We're committed to the sanctity of life.  We believe God chose when we would be born and when we are to die, and that those times are in his hands:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

We therefore resist any form of legislation which would make assisted dying an option or a preference.   In addition, euthanasia is the intentional killing of the innocent and is therefore forbidden by the sixth commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’.

Honouring the elderly

There is another biblical principle which the debate on euthanasia violates, that of honouring our elders. 

Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

Paul remarks to the Ephesians that this is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.  We simply don’t know what our society may reap long term if we fail to take note of this. 

Made in God’s image

The debate around euthanasia is centred on the quality of a person’s life.  However, the scriptures bear witness throughout that our significance, and so the claim to protection, derives not from our quality of life or our gifts or abilities, but from our status as people made in God’s image:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man (Genesis 9:6).

Our lives are not our own

Human life is not property that can be dispensed with at will.  It’s the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away, as Job discovered (Job 1:21).  We’re here to show the glory of God and to serve him and we have no right to ‘take’ life, even our own.

Permissive legislation

Up until 1967, legislation in the UK was preventative.  The 1967 Abortion Act, was the first piece of permissive legislation to be passed.  What started out with the intention of safeguarding the life of the mother in particular specified circumstances has snowballed into the situation we face today, where hundreds of abortions are performed on demand every day.

The current debate on euthanasia, or assisted suicide, has to be looked at in a similar light.  Whilst no one wants to see people suffering with debilitating and painful illnesses or the ravages of old age, we must look beyond the particulars and see the dangers of legalising euthanasia – another piece of permissive legislation. 

In the Netherlands

This is what has happened in the Netherlands since euthanasia was legalised.  Official statistics show that in 2001 there were 4,664 cases of medical intervention to shorten life, representing 3.3% of all deaths.  Of these, nearly a thousand had no explicit request for euthanasia, indicating that 20% of all medically assisted deaths were involuntary.  More recently a group of Dutch doctors have called for the Dutch government to legaise infant euthanasia for terminally ill newborn babies. 

Other impacts of legalising euthanasia

Since the key witness in any euthanasia case is always dead, the system is wide open to abuse.  The more a person feels uncertain about whether their lives are worth living the more vulnerable they are to being coerced or manipulated. 

The pressure which dependents would be under not to be a burden would galvanise the elderly in our society into a ‘duty to die’ mentality.  Long-term MP, Ann Widdecombe, has remarked that the life of every 80 year old would be in jeopardy if such legislation was ever passed.

We keep abreast of the debate on this issue and we communicate our convictions to our local MP and others who may have an influence, because we long to see our society structured and operating in a Godly way – a place where the vulnerable are protected and cared for. 

The more a person feels uncertain about whether their lives are worth living the more vulnerable they are to being coerced or manipulated. The pressure which dependents would be under not to be a burden would galvanise the elderly in our society into a ‘duty to die’ mentality

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