One of the facts of life is that eventually, we will all die. Many of us have seen people endure enormous pain over a long period before death finally came. I am thankful that my wife Phyllis and my son Tim did not go through months of intense pain before passing on. Medical science has made great progress in extending life but has not been as effective in relieving pain. That is part of the reason we have seen a movement for legalizing physician-assisted death.
New Jersey passed a “Medical Aid-in-Dying” law two years ago, and last year 33 terminally ill people in the state ended their lives. Since 2016, California has had “The End of Life Option Act.” New York has a “Good Death” Act moving through the legislative process. The movement to legalize physician-assisted death is not confined to America. Holland was perhaps the pioneer of physician-assisted death in Europe. Columbia became the leader in South America back in 1997. The “Colombian Pain Institute” administers euthanasia for “intense physical or mental suffering due to an injury or incurable illness.”
The Week magazine for October 22, 2021 (page 8) carried a report demonstrating the difficulty of legalizing physician-assisted death. In Colombia, a 51-year-old woman named Martha Sepulveda has ALS and was scheduled to be euthanized. She would be the first person in Colombia to receive physician-assisted death without a terminal prognosis. However, the Colombian Pain Institute concluded that “her condition had improved” so she is no longer qualified for the procedure. Now she has a lawyer fighting for her right to die because she “is not willing to continue to live.”
Christians have concerns in this matter. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we read that our body is “the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.” The next verse tells us not to defile the temple. This concept is continued in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, which teaches why a Christian should not be involved in prostitution. In ancient times, death came more quickly than in today’s world with modern medicines. Therefore, a person near death today deserves special attention and Christian compassion. In Proverbs 31:6-7, we read, “Give strong drink to those who are ready to perish, and wine to those who are of heavy hearts.” When David was near death, he was chilled, and a woman came to warm him not for sexual purposes but to relieve his discomfort. (See 1 Kings 1: 1-4).
The doctors I know are horrified at the prospect of deciding to end someone’s life. It is hard to assess the collateral damage of someone saying, “I choose to die rather than blessing others, especially my family.” In many cases, financial concerns are a significant motivation for ending life, and there are horror stories of involuntary euthanasia in Holland. Christians should lead the charge to develop medical steps to relieve suffering and pain. Financial problems should not be an issue in a wealthy country like the United States.
From an atheist’s viewpoint, death is the end, and physician-assisted death is merely the solution to suffering. However, I continue to be reminded of my son’s last words to me before he died. He said, “Dad, I am going to see Mom, and I will actually be able to see her and be with Jesus.” These words were from a blind, mentally challenged, COVID-ravaged young man who had battled muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia all of his life. He was ready to move on to something better.
— John N. Clayton © 2021
Tim Clayton’s story was told by John N. Clayton in the book Timothy: My Son and My Teacher available HERE.
The organization Compassion and Choices has been a leader in the movement to legalize physician-assisted euthanasia.