Pastor F. William Darrow
Notes From The Adult Classes 2006 Evening
Vacation Bible School
WEBSTER’S DEFINITION: 1. An easy or painless
death; 2. the method of affecting it; 3. the putting of a person to
death painlessly, especially one in a hopeless condition.
The concept usually is related to those who are
terminally ill and desire to die rather than continue suffering.
We live in a wonderful age. We can get into an
airplane and in a few hours fly around the world. We can get into an
automobile and drive in comfort with air conditioning or heat. Thus,
we could go on and on about the amazing comforts in which we live.
In the medical field we have learned to treat so many ailments and
diseases that longevity of life has actually been extended a few
years. While this seems wonderful, it has also created a lot of
problems. Because we can treat ailments and diseases that used to be
fatal we now have to decide when to continue to treat illnesses or
to allow a person to die. Thus, with the high cost of medical
treatment and the high cost of nursing homes it has caused some to
think there is an easy way out. It is called Euthanasia and along
with it is Assisted Suicide. In this paper we will attempt to
address both, relating the problems and, hopefully, the Biblical
answers. Many in the medical field have attempted to step into the
shoes of God.
Much of the following information is taken from
Vital Signs by Mark Blocher.
There are 2 distinct concepts involving
euthanasia – passive and active. Doing nothing or withholding
medical treatment so that the individual dies brings about passive
euthanasia. Thus, the person is not killed by direct action but by
deliberate neglect. Active euthanasia is when an individual is
directly put to death in order to eliminate further suffering.
Active euthanasia is also called MERCY KILLING. Therefore,
euthanasia can be defined as withholding treatment for the purpose
of bringing about or hastening death, or taking deliberate steps to
end life when that person is not imminently dying.
THE RIGHT TO DIE
Some believe that every individual has the right
to control his own life and that extends to the RIGHT TO END IT, or
as some would say, the RIGHT TO DEATH UPON DEMAND. It used to be
that the right to die meant the right to die a natural death without
burdensome medical care, but not so anymore.
In modern day with the ability of medical
equipment to sustain life, it is possible to overtreat. Therefore,
the right to die is to withhold life support. The desire to die of
"natural causes" rather than prolonging the process by technology is
what most people mean when they talk about the right to die.
If the right to die upon demand does exist, one’s
health or life expectancy has little to do with the decision. If
this is true even a healthy individual could choose to take his own
life if life to him did not seem tolerable. But the Judeo-Christian
teaching holds that suicide is self-murder and is prohibited by
"Thou shalt not kill". Exodus 20:13
Let us consider several Biblical arguments
against the claim of a right to die.
God is sovereign, and He alone determines
the length of our days.
I Samuel 2:6 Psalm 39:4
A believer does not own himself because
we are purchased by God.
I Corinthians 6:19-10
Since we are owned by God, we have no
right to dispose of ourselves.
To consider the right to die as an
inalienable right enjoyed under the Constitution of the
United States of America means that it should be
self-evident and derived from a law higher than man’s law.
Inalienable rights come from God.
This is why Christianity’s significant influence
upon cultures causes them to outlaw suicide, murder,
and mercy killings.
Physical life is intrinsically good, not
merely a means to another good. Our bodies are an integral
aspect of our being. If this were not true, God would not
resurrect our body but just make new ones. Since this is
true, we should not speak of continued body life as a
If physical life is not inherently good,
why do we attempt to extend this earthly life? Why go to a
doctor, why eat nutritious food, and why exercise? We may
not know our purpose on earth but that does not mean there
is no purpose. We may not desire to live a life devoid of
"quality", but the notion of quality of life is purely
subjective and arbitrary.
Philippians 1:21 "For me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain."
On the other hand, the right to die may
be legitimate if it means the right to refuse burdensome
medical treatment when terminally ill, if such treatment is
of little or no benefit. Here is where in overtreatment the
medical field tries to be God. We are rational, thinking
beings to which God grants the power to make certain
Another factor involved here is that the
individual, as approved by the state, has the right to
determine how his or her death should be managed. The state
should not be given the power to determine how and when its
The ultimate claim to our lives belongs
not to us, or to the state, but to God. Our problem is man’s
acceptance of humanism, which holds that man is the center
of all things.
Consider what modern technology has given
us: Conception control to prevent wrongful conception.
Failing that, abortion to prevent wrongful birth.
Infanticide prevents wrongful life, and the "solution" to
the wrongful burden of growing old is the right to die.
DEATH WITH DIGNITY
For the most part, there is no dignity to death.
Death is the consequence of sin. Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the
day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Every
observance of death, whether it is a dead animal in middle of the
road or a human corpse in a funeral home, it reminds us of the
terrible price of rebellion against God. Any effort on man’s part to
make death dignified attempts to hide the consequences of sin,
thereby denying a need for salvation in Christ.
We must never forget that hell is a real place
and is a place of eternal torment. It is a separation from God for
all eternity for those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation
20:15 "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life
was cast into the lake of fire." What is dignified about that?
Suppose someone does have a terminal disease and they are encouraged
to "die with dignity". They will wake up in hell. Whether it is
family or friends that encourage them to "die with dignity", they
are sending that person to hell. Or if a doctor assists in the
action they are sending that person to hell. As long as someone is
alive there is always a chance that there may be a little window
where they can get saved. On the other hand, if a believer lives out
his life letting God make the decision when to take him home to be
with Him, that is dying with dignity. 2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are
confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and
to be present with the Lord."
The term "imminent death" refers to an
individual’s impending death. It simply means that death could
happen at any time judging from the medical conditions. Usually that
means that death can be expected within hours or days. Some in the
euthanasia movement want to apply the term "imminent death" to a
person diagnosed as "terminally ill". Here is the problem, how
certain is the prognosis? Many people have survived such dire
predictions, which shows that the concept of imminent death is not
definitive nor is it an absolute fact. Some have been told they had
less than a year to live, only to survive for many more years. It
still comes down to this; man is trying to play God. By redefining
terms, those who want euthanasia will say a "terminally ill" person
is facing "imminent death", thus he should be allowed to take a pill
and die with "dignity". Not only is this not letting God be
sovereign, but it could mean cheating a person out of several years
on earth if man’s prognosis is wrong.
ARTIFICIAL LIFE SUPPORT
No amount of medical expertise or technology can
keep a person alive indefinitely when there is no spontaneous major
organ function. If all major organ systems cease functioning
spontaneously and initial effort at resuscitation are unsuccessful,
no amount of technology can keep that person alive. What we are
talking about here is the major organs. We are not talking about
food, water, and oxygen.
In recent years the courts have stepped in to
define what is life support and have now defined life support to
include fluids, food and oxygen. They are classifying these three
basic functions now as artificial medical treatment. Medical
therapies and procedures are usually applied to people with
particular symptoms and pathologies. However, food and water have
only one purpose – to physically sustain life, whether the person is
sick or not. Without nutrition and fluids, anyone’s prognosis is
death. Therefore, food and water are not medical treatment. Two
different cases came into prominence where the courts allowed the
food and water to be withheld, that of Nancy Cruzan and Terri
Schiavo. Of course, that produced death.
The medicalizing of food and water represents a
radical departure from previous standards of care. Before they were
considered basic care, not medical. Basically to withhold food and
water to hasten death is euthanasia.
Treatment with oxygen is similar. Also known as
ventilators, respirators have become an important part of intensive
care and emergency room medicine. Respirators are used to sustain a
sufficient level of oxygen in the bloodstream in order to maintain
the integrity of major organ systems. When a person’s medical
condition deteriorates to the point where he is no longer able to
breathe on his own and death appears imminent, respirator
support becomes artificial life support. However, the issue of
removing the respirator is determined by the overall condition of
the patient, not the nature of the machine. The issue is not whether
the means of providing oxygen is artificial, but whether the machine
is a benefit to the patient. What is the individual’s condition? Is
WITHHOLDING OR WITHDRAWING TREATMENT
Are we required to squeeze every possible moment
out of life? Is it moral to take a person off a respirator,
antibiotics, kidney dialysis, or insulin?
Death is a reality of life. Hebrews 9:27 "And
as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
judgment." That is not a principle of medical ethics but a fact
of life. Death is not simply a technical matter involving the
failure of the body to sustain life; it is a spiritual reality. God
is ultimately in control. When medicine reaches its limit and can no
longer sustain life, we must accept the fact that death will occur.
Because of that, we may have to make a decision to withdraw a
particular treatment or decide not to begin a new one.
Decisions concerning the withdrawal or
withholding of treatment should be based primarily on the
individual’s physical condition. For example, decisions regarding a
mentally disabled patient’s treatment should not be affected by his
disability. Medical benefit should be the primary goal. If a medical
treatment would not benefit a patient, then it should be withheld or
A decision might be made this way: Will this
patient leave the hospital alive if this particular therapy is
provided? If the answer is no, if death is unavoidable, then a
decision to withhold the therapy would not be euthanasia. However,
when treatment is withheld or withdrawn specifically to hasten or
cause death, then the moral boundary of euthanasia has been crossed.
Here is where the problem comes in. A growing
number of people believe there has to be a certain quality of life.
A person must be able to communicate with people, have meaningful
relationships, participate in the joys and struggles of life, and
have the ability to be self-directed and independent. Therefore,
when one is no longer capable of participating in that kind of life,
the common response is that physical life should end. They would say
that when a person reaches this point, he has lost his quality of
life. Those who do not experience this quality of life are typically
referred to as "vegetables" or "vegetating organisms".
The conclusion of this kind of thinking is that
people in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are candidates
for feeding tube removal. We are not talking about people who are
facing imminent death. We are talking about those who are not dying
fast enough. Although the proponents of euthanasia view such lives
as useless, many caregivers are understandably wary of hastening
It is not always wrong to withdraw or withhold a
feeding tube. Here is a suggested list of when it may be acceptable
to remove a feeding tube.
When a person is no longer capable of
benefiting from continued feeding.
When continued feeding would increase the
suffering of an imminently dying person.
When the purpose for withdrawing or
withholding nutrition is to make the person comfortable, not
to hasten or cause death.
When the person’s family or advocate
agrees to the decision.
What about removing a respirator? When it is
clear that death is near because other major organ systems are
shutting down, to remove a respirator would not be euthanasia. When
all brain function has ceased it will not be long before the other
organ systems begin to deteriorate. The central issue concerning
respirators is whether or not they provide the patient the benefit
intended, which is a medical issue. If the respirator is not
providing any benefit to the patient’s physical integrity and he
will not survive even with support, then its removal would not be
the cause of death. Respirators do not keep people alive.
DO NOT RESUSCITATE ORDERS
As believers, we do not endorse the practice of
continuing futile medical treatment or multiple resuscitations just
to extract a few more moments or days of earthly life. Generally
speaking when a person suffers multiple cardiac arrests in
succession, further resuscitative efforts may be withheld. Such an
order should be indicated on medical charts. In the case of a
terminally ill person who is at home, this information should be
conveyed to any caregivers involved.
We have entered a strange period in man’s
thinking. Suicide itself has gone on since the creation of man. God
in His sovereignty created us and it is His choice as to when and
how we die. For a person to take his own life is self-murder. Exodus
20:13 "Thou shalt not kill". Basically anyone has the ability
to take his own life no matter how wrong it may be.
Strangely enough with all the humanistic ideas
that are being propagated today such as, "the right to die", "death
with dignity", "imminent death", etc., people are rethinking suicide
and are attempting to make it dignified by having a doctor
administer a lethal shot or give lethal pills. This is not "mercy
killing"; it is assisted suicide, which is homicide. Some would like
to make it legal so that if a person has a terminal disease they
would be spared painful treatments and pain in general connected
with the terminal illness.
When killing is done to end suffering, it is
frequently called mercy killing. Relief from suffering, not malice,
is the principal motivation. Mercy killing implies that death is
preferable to life. It also assumes that no other form of relief is
available. Because of the advances in modern medicine most pain can
be treated. Another problem surfaces here. A doctor may administer a
drug for pain that can shorten life. That is not euthanasia but
simple maintenance of a problem. This is not mercy killing. However,
if a doctor increased those dosages more than needed to hasten death
that is mercy killing.
Those who want assisted suicide to be legalized
use circular reasoning. The people who want legal assisted suicide
are competent patients. The assumption is that someone who wants to
end his life is mentally competent, but existing law contradicts
that claim. People who fail in their suicide attempts are generally
admitted to hospital for psychiatric care, because society thinks a
mentally healthy person would not want to die. Assisted suicide
claims the opposite.
In 1991, voters in Washington State defeated an
assisted suicide bill. During the campaign, supporters admitted that
the right of a terminally ill, competent person to request physician
assistance in dying would also apply to an incompetent person. If
measures like that are adopted, physicians will be allowed, perhaps
obligated, to administer lethal injections to patients who they
believe would want to die if able to make that decision. In reality,
why does a competent person have any more right to die than an
Just to show you how far reaching these things
can go we note the Netherlands where physician-assisted and
physician-administered death are already legal. One of every 6
deaths is the result of a doctor-administered lethal injection.
Originally it was for terminally ill patients only who requested it.
Now it is common for lethal injections to be administered to
unconscious or incompetent patients. Ironically, those Dutch
physicians are doing what their World War II counterparts refused to
do during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In his book,
The Nazi Doctors, Robert J. Lifton describes how the Dutch
medical community resisted Nazi orders to hand over patient records
and participate in exterminative medicine. None cooperated. Many
were sent to concentration camps for their refusal.
Now we have sympathizers in the USA. Suffering is
common to mankind because we live in a fallen world. It is the
physician’s role to eliminate suffering as best he can, but it is
not his role to eliminate the sufferer. We must not give physicians
the legal or moral authority to decide who live or dies.
OREGON’S PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUIDICE
The following information is taken from
Biblical Bioethics Advisor by Mark Blocher.
Oregon is the only state in the USA where
physicians may legally provide patients with prescriptions for
lethal medications for the purpose of suicide. It has been legal in
Oregon since 1997. Since then 263 people have obtained and used
legally prescribed lethal medications. Thirty-eight of those were in
2005. Since reporting by doctors is voluntary the figures are
probably much higher. By law the doctor can only prescribe lethal
medications to those patients who are terminally ill and mentally
competent to make their own medical decisions. This is supposed to
ensure that mentally unstable patients do not commit suicide with
physician assistance. Is this followed?
On October 17, 2005 a story in The Oregonian
told of Kate Cheney an 85 year-old woman with growing dementia. Her
psychiatrists noted she could not remember recent events and people,
including the names of her hospice nurses or her new doctor and her
family appeared to be pressuring her. A lethal dose of medication
was authorized for Cheney. This was requested by her daughter. While
Cheney did not meet the state law requirements of being competent
she died of a lethal dose of medication given for that purpose.
When a patient does not meet the requirements and
their doctor turns them down, they search until they find a doctor
who will disregard the law. Wesley Smith wrote, "Once the legal view
of killing is shifted from automatically bad to possibly
good it becomes virtually impossible to restrict
physician-assisted suicide. It is the children of aging parents who
pressure increasingly dependent parents to take this action.
The law only requires physicians to file a report
and the DHS to periodically review death certificates. The state
claims to conduct telephone interviews with prescribing physicians
to ascertain whether details contained in the doctor’s report
correspond with information accompanying the death certificate.
One of the problems is that sometimes there are
complications when a person takes the drugs such as vomiting,
seizures, etc. Physicians were present in only 19 percent of the
cases. Why is this important? In nearly 20 percent of Dutch assisted
suicides, complications were so severe that doctors intervened by
administering lethal injections. So much for dying in peace. Is this
death with dignity?
The Oregon law says that lethal prescriptions can
only be given to patients whose life expectancy is six months or
less. In one instance a patient was still alive 17 months after
obtaining a prescription and another was still alive two years
later. No one can really predict when a person will die. One cannot
help but wonder how many family birthday parties, graduations and
weddings that person who lived another two years took in.
The doctor is in control. He possesses the power
to decide whether the patient is terminally ill and mentally
competent and whether to issue the prescription. No matter what you
call it, assisted suicide is killing a human being. This goes
against the oath taken by a doctor for medical practice. Protecting
human life has been among the highest duties of the physician and
the central focus of medicine.
Let me finish by saying this, I have heard many
people say after a friend or loved one died that they are now at
peace and suffering is over. If they were saved that is certainly
true but if that person was not saved he went to an early hell. If
that person had been allowed to live a few more months, maybe God
would have opened a window where that person could have gotten
saved. Taking a life by euthanasia is playing God and not allowing a
sovereign God to take life at His choosing.
Because many in the science and medical fields
accept the false teaching of evolution they dream of a concept where
man will preserve the earth forever and man will be so able to
control his destiny to the point that he will live eternally. God,
the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is disbelieved and
ignored. If man is going to be able to do that, he must kill
everything that is imperfect and keep only the best. The more man
has learned in the medical world the more complicated life has
become. Man has not solved problems, but has created problems.
Unsaved man will continue to push for greater longevity at any cost.
Decision making at the exit gates of life will become more complex
and ethically demanding. Believers need to take a stand for life.
TWO INTERESTING CLIPPINGS
Sword of the Lord, 5/19/06
POLL CLAIMS AMERICANS BACK ASSISTED SUICIDE;
VOTES AND OTHERS SAY
A new poll conducted by CBS News claims that a
majority of Americans favor assisted suicide. However, previous
polls show the nation is at least split on the issue or opposed to
the grisly practice. And what may matter most, actual ballot votes
on the subject have Americans strongly opposed.
The CBS News poll asked respondents if they
thought "a doctor (should) be allowed to assist the person in taking
their own life" who "has a disease that will ultimately destroy
their mind or body and they want to take their own life."
…56 percent of Americans said yes, and 37 percent
Conducted by Angus Reid, the poll surveyed 1,229
American adults from January 20-25.
However, an August 2005 poll conducted by the Pew
Research Center found Americans opposed assisted suicide by a 48-44
But what may matter most is what Americans decide
at the polls when asked to determine if assisted suicide should be
While voters in Oregon twice approved allowing
assisted suicide there, other states have shown that assisted
suicide is not popular.
In Michigan in 1998, voters overwhelmingly
rejected a measure to legalize assisted suicide by a wide 71 to 29
percent margin. In 2000, Maine voters defeated an assisted suicide
proposal by 51-49 percent. California voters rejected an assisted
suicide proposal by a 54 to 46 percent margin in 1992.
GERMAN NURSE WHO EUTHANIZED TWENTY-NINE PATIENTS
TO STAND TRIAL
A German nurse who is accused of killing…29
patients, many through involuntary euthanasia, is scheduled to go on
trial soon. Stephan L., a 27-year-old who has been named the "Angel
of Death" in the German media, has admitted to giving lethal
injections to 16 elderly patients at a local hospital and is likely
responsible for 13 more.
Herbert Pollert, the lead prosecutor, said
autopsies have been performed on 42 former patients at a hospital in
the Bavarian town of Sonthofen, and he has sufficient evidence to
Stephan now faces 16 counts of murder and 12
counts of manslaughter as well as one count of assisted suicide.
The victims all died during the 17 months Stephen
worked at the clinic, and most of the patients were above the age of
75, though one was as young as 40…
Stephan has told police he killed the people out
of "compassion" for the elderly patients. But Wilhelm Seitz, an
attorney for the victims’ families, told AFP (French Press Agency)
they didn’t want to die.