It wasn’t that long ago that I come across an article in the Detroit Free Press which dealt with the question of a person’s “right” to take his or her own life. The article dealt with a group which calls itself Hemlock. A group which, as its name suggests advocates a person’s “right” to take his or her own life. The name comes from the poison the Greek philosopher Socrates chose to drink rather than face being exiled for his political views.
One morning six years ago, in an English country house, Derek Humphrey, the founder of Hemlock, served his wife a lethal potion of drugs mixed with coffee. Jean Humphrey was dying of bone cancer. She was determined not to die in a hospital. As her husband tells it, she was far calmer than he was as she drank the coffee, knowing it would kill her.
Questioned by the police after his wife’s death, Humphrey confessed to aiding and abetting a suicide, a crime in England and the United States. But Humphrey said the police were swayed by public opinion and decided not to prosecute. “A lot of people said I just killed her,” Humphrey said. “Other people said it was a supreme act of love.” And that, young people, is the question we are faced with. How do we view the entire question of euthanasia? Is it just plain murder, or is it a supreme act of love? Or, from a spiritual view point, how does this question fit in with the Law of God?
Groups advocating euthanasia; helping the terminally ill to die painlessly – have been around for a long time. But relatively recent medical technology that prolongs life has made euthanasia a public issue.
You can read with a great deal of regularity accounts of people helping take the life of someone they are close to, and doing so for all kinds of worthwhile and humane reasons. They reason that there is no reason to continue with their present life, if that life will be filled with pain and misery. The suffering which seems to loom on the horizon seems to justify the decision that they reach. It is better to die now while in relative good health, and free from pain, than to face the trials that will come. When, from all of their observations, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope or promise, the decision is made – let’s not go down that tunnel.
Now the Word of God describes our walk here on this earth as a walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). It is the result of Adam’s fall in Paradise. And we soon find that this life is exactly that. Our pilgrimage here on earth, no matter for how long, will be surrounded by death.
Speaking from my own personal experience, God has seen fit to place my wife’s grandmother in a rest home until the time of her death three years ago; and now all of my grandparents are in rest homes. By today’s standards, some such as Hemlock would advocate the wisdom of suicide rather than spending any length of time in a rest home. Why not just end it for them? After all, there can no longer be any realistic hope of them ever coming home again.
And to be quite honest, I sometimes ask myself, why does God allow such as this to continue? Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if they were delivered from this life and exalted to glory?
It is at this point, when one begins to question the purpose of God in all things, we have to come back to the Word of God for the answer. With the Word as his guide, he quickly realizes that our loved ones, and maybe ourselves, could possibly experience these things because God, in His Sovereign Counsel, has determined what is good for us.
I thank God for the Christian witness that I have experienced while at the bedside of one of my grandparents. The spiritual things have become the most important things in their lives. They speak of the peace that they have in Jesus Christ in a manner that no one else can.
To hear a person that you have loved all of your life says with all the surety of faith that what she is going through now is good for her is a very moving thing to witness. Their life does have meaning for them, and without a doubt, for us.
It is very important for all of us to remember that we must look to God for our help and strength. The world puts all of its trust in its technology, and we could be tempted to do the same. Granted, God does give us means and medicine, and doctors have their place in our lives. But we must never put our hope and belief in the world or what it has to offer by way of medical help.
The Lord has determined when you and I shall die; it is not the other way around. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; and we should be thankful for that very fact. It is according to His divine decree that all things happen. If for a moment man says that he himself holds the choice of life or death in his hands, he is in effect playing God.
Finally, I am afraid that this whole problem will become more and more difficult for the Church. The world will not only attempt to give a person the “right” to take his own life if he so wishes, but it will also attempt to carry this whole idea steps further. It is quite possible that there will be attempts to have laws passed which would demand that retarded or defective people be either sterilized or put to death. There could quite possible be laws which would allow only certain individuals, who were approved by the state, to have children. And there could be laws which would require that any person over a certain age be put to death.
There are some doubts and fears which quite naturally enter into our minds and hearts. What would happen in your family if the entire question of terminal illness became an actuality rather than something just talked about; would you feel differently?
These questions will have to be faced by all of us. We do suffer in this life, some more than others. God of course does not punish us for our sins. He did that by the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. According to God’s will, we will all face suffering; but it is not ours to determine how much. Man in his rebellious state of sin wants to say how much, but not the believer. God’s wisdom is above question. We can rest assured that He will give us grace to bear whatever He sends our way. After all, what is our suffering in this world? It is but for a moment when compared to the suffering that our Lord Jesus Christ experienced on the cross on our behalf.