Home > John's Blogs > Assisted Suicide Making a Comeback

Assisted Suicide Making a Comeback

There’s been a couple of developments in the assisted suicide debate over the last couple of days.  As a result, people are beginning to debate the issue again.  First, there was a case of alleged assisted suicide in Georgia.  Second, Washington state is going to allow doctors to prescribe medications for the purpose of suicide.  So, as Christians, what should we think about this?

The problem is the way that the debate has been framed.  Typically, a person is described who has had cancer or some other terminal disease, and whose life is lived in pain.  Then, the question is posed: Shouldn’t they have a right to die with dignity?  Or, Shouldn’t they be allowed to choose the end of their life?

The problem is the three presuppositions that lie behind those questions.  First, it assumes that we exist without a community.  One of the things that bothers me about the Washington law is that it merely “recommends that the patient notify the next of kin.”  The assumption is that no one else faces a loss when we end our lives.   However, in reality, we were designed for community and to live a life of intimacy with others.  When we die, the entire community experiences a loss.  That includes family, of course, but I think it includes God’s community as well.  Therefore, we should not be able to make such a decision independently from our community. 

Second, it assumes that we own our lives.  But as Christians, we don’t.  Life is not our property, but rather falls under the ownership of the creator.  We do not have the right to determine when our life should end.  As a community, we should be supportive of God’s creation and therefore of life.

Third, it assumes that death is the natural end for all of us.  But it’s not.  We were not designed by God to die, but to live.  As a community, we should support life by recognizing that death is not God’s design.

So, when faced with a difficult end of life for one who is in our community, what is our response?  We should do our best to make the person comfortable (hospice can be very helpful).  We should stand with the person and be as supportive as we can.  As a community, we should assist the family in any way that we are able.  Most of all, we should treat death as the unwelcome intruder that it is.

  1. March 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Mealander again? 🙂

    My question would be what kind of intimacy can you have with your community when you are experiencing pain so debilitating that you can barely function? Or you have suffered from brain trauma that has taken most, if not all of your faculties?

  2. jlemke
    March 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Not Meilaender, this time!

    Two quick points:
    1. If you are experiencing such pain that you don’t have your faculties, then according to Washington state law you’re not eligible for assisted suicide. So the community is making the decision for us, whether we like it or not. This is true even if assisted suicide were allowed in such conditions – someone else would make the decision for us. So, in such a case, the community IS deciding even if we are not intimate.

    2. The question is not the level of intimacy we have with the community (although it should be a lot – as I said, we are designed for that), but whether or not the community has a voice in what decision we should make. I believe that we were designed with a responsibility to God and to our community. Suicide elevates our own wishes above the wishes of either God or the community. In suicide, we are acting autonomously and this is contrary to our design. In other words, we may not have intimacy with our community (per our design), but our death still impacts the community.

    Make sense?

  3. Kenneth England
    March 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    We have a great deal of intimacy with our local community and even more on immediate family.
    We do belong to Gods community to and being that way it is up to God when we pass on.

  4. February 3, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Thought you might find the following commentary interesting:


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