(Note: This was recorded before Albert Mohler’s Briefing on 6/17, where he has similar things to say on the topic.)
If you get too old and live in Belgium, they might just kill you.
This week in the Daily Signal, a UK based news source, there is a article about thousands of elderly people being killed in Belgium by their general practitioners without ever asking to die, and in fact one in every sixty deaths of a patient by their general practitioner involved someone who hadn’t requested euthanasia — who had not requested their doctor to end their life. We’ll talk about the whole ending of life prematurely in a few minutes, but right now I want to focused on this unauthorized killing.
Half of the patients killed without giving their consent were over the age of eighty, and two-thirds of them were in a hospital and weren’t even suffering from a terminal disease such as cancer. What’s even more outlandish and ridiculous about this story in Belgium is that a lot of times the doctors won’t even inform the families of their plans to end the life of their loved ones. They didn’t see it as a family or a social decision. They saw it as a medical decision, and so they acted unilaterally to end the life of someone who wasn’t terminal without their family’s permission.
Now, you may say, “Oh my gosh, that’s horrible. It could never happen here,” but before you get to the point where doctors are unilaterally ending life, you get to the point where we let doctors end life with the patient’s permission. So, euthanasia becomes legal, and then the next short step is doctors doing it based on their “medical decision making abilities.” This is a large problem in the world and in fact in our culture too. The whole “death with dignity” movement is about you killing yourself or having your doctor kill yourself or help you kill yourself.
What does the Christian worldview have to say about this? Well, it has a few things to say. First, euthanasia suffers the same problems as abortion does. It involves taking and ending a life that is not ours to end. All life is God’s. He is the creator of it, he is the sustainer of it, he is the owner and ruler of it, and we do not have permission to play “God” and server in his role and play decision maker with who lives and who dies, whether that’s us, someone else, the unborn, or an elderly person. So, that’s the first thing: we are, as a human race, are starting to try and take, by the act of law, the role of God when it comes to end of life decisions that is not ours to take.
Furthermore, the Christian worldview has lots to say about the unauthorized taking of life. For instance, these doctors killing their patients. Because life doesn’t cease to be valuable when it ceases to be functionally valuable or economically valuable. Your worth as a person is not based on your ability to bring in a paycheck or walk or use your lungs. These are arguments that have been touted out in favor of abortion. “Well, you can kill the unborn because it doesn’t contribute to society. It’s not as valuable as a fully grown person or it doesn’t even use its lungs.” These type of things.
The same arguments are being used in favor of euthanasia. You can kill old people, because they’re in a coma. What about people who go into a coma and supposedly lose their valuable status and then come out of the coma? How did they regain their valuable status? Where did that come from? Now, I think the most common sense observation is they were valuable the whole time, and they were valuable not because of their economic worth or their mobility or athleticism or use of their functional limbs or those types of things. No, they’re valuable because they’re created in the image of their creator, of God. They have a soul. They have intrinsic worth and dignity. That is why people are valuable. They’re not valuable because of the benefit they bring to society solely, though that is a benefit.
When you have a worldview that says that all there is is the here and now; All there is is the physical; There is no image of God. Then, you can start to see why it would be easy for people to say, “we can kill other people,” and we can certainly kill ourselves because we are not accountable to anyone else. We are not made in anyone’s image. Our worth is only that which we bring economically or socially. There’s nothing else when it comes to determining our worth.
I think there are two other factors that should be considered about euthanasia just as a general practice when people actually are consenting and wanting it.
Euthanasia erodes confidence in the medical establishment
The first would be that it erodes confidence in the medical establishment. Now, if your doctor can kill you one day maybe because he thinks you want him to or he thinks it’s best for you or because it ends your suffering, well at some point, it might make you a little leery of going to the doctor or getting checked into the hospital.
What if you happen to go into a coma, you might not wake up and it might not be because you wouldn’t have come out of the coma, it might be because your doctor killed you. Do you have confidence in a medical establishment where it’s legal and permissible for them to take your life if they feel like you might want that or they just think it’s a medical decision and they don’t need to consult you? When we have a medical establishment where the physician — the person that is supposed to be maintaining, improving, and healing healing — can now start ending and hurting and harming, we should have a lack of trust in the medical establishment. If we don’t, then we’re not looking at the situation rationally. That’s the first reason. It erodes confidence in the medical establishment.
Euthanasia destroys the foundation of human dignity and rights
The second thing that’s wrong with euthanasia is it destroys the very foundation of human dignity and rights. The most basic human right is the right to be and remain a living human. How can you say that there are other rights, like the right not to be discriminated against because of your race, if you can’t even say that you have a right to be a person. This is an argument that can be used against abortion too. If you say that you can kill someone, but you can’t say you have to stand at the back of the bus, that seems wildly inconsistent.
If you’re sufficiently small and young enough, we could have killed you and that wouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re old enough and let’s say you’re a black person, we have to treat you a certain way. That doesn’t make any sense. The reason that we should treat you a certain way as a black person is the same reason we shouldn’t kill you when you’re a tiny little baby fetus inside of its mother. It’s because you have intrinsic worth and dignity as a person. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin. The reason it’s wrong to mistreat someone on the color of the skin is because of who they are on the inside, not because of their skin.
When we say that people can be killed or can choose to kill themselves, what we’ve done is elevate personal autonomy above the rule and of a sovereign God. We’ve said, “Our ways are higher than your ways God. Our desires are better than how you’ve designed life.” It really erodes what it means to be human, what it means to have dignity. This whole word “dignity” has been co-opted by the euthanasia movement, by the “death with dignity” movement. They’ve said that it’s dignified to end your own life. It’s not dignified to suffer.
What does the Christian worldview have to say about that? Well, Paul certainly saw it as a positive thing to suffer, not suffer pointlessly but to suffer well. To give testimony to Christ in how he was going through the suffering, not to end it summarily. In fact, often times it is the suffering in our lives that brings us to be more like Christ. It produces sanctification in us. It’s the friction that comes from being rubbed by circumstances that come at us that make us more like Christ. That’s what it means to have dignity: to live in the image and knowledge of who God is and who he created us to be. That’s the only reason we have dignity.
It’s not dignified to kill yourself so you don’t suffer. In fact, generally this has been regarded as a cowardly action. Now, I can’t know what it’s like to be in that situation where I am in so much pain and my whole outlook on life looks bleak. I haven’t been there, but I can tell you how I should respond when I am in that circumstance. From a Biblical standpoint, I do not have the right to take that which does not belong to me, namely my own life. What I do have the right and the opportunity to do is to show the love of Christ — the light of Christ — in my suffering, whatever that might be, small or large, until the end. Sometimes the best way we can serve God is to serve him until the end, and sometimes the biggest impact we make is in the last stretch of our life due to how we deal with the hard times and the struggles that come.
This is a difficult issue and it’s not often one that people want to talk about. I have seen from my short time of doing this podcast and looking at other people who write and speak on these topics that abortion and euthanasia get far less engagement from people than others. I think the issues make us uncomfortable, but they are necessary. Could there be more important issues to talk about, to think about, to act on, than issues that literally involve life and death?
We should never want to allow our society to get to the point where doctors get to kill people summarily without their permission, because “that’s just how it is, because it’s a medical decision. There’s no image of God. There’s no intrinsic right to be human.” We should never let it get to that point. We need to be educated on these issues. We need to know that they’re happening. Right now, they’re happening in Belgium, but soon it could be happening here, and indeed it actually has been done here. It just hasn’t been legal. Think on these things. Act on these things. Stand up for truth in these areas. There could be no more important area to do that than in the area of life.