Last week Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, signed into law The End of Life Option Act, which allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.
California now joins Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont where assisted suicide is now legal. In order to qualify, patients must be legal adults, be judged to be mentally competent and be expected to die of a terminal illness within six months, which is impossible for anyone to know of a certainty, even a doctor.
Governor Brown, the former Jesuit Seminar student, claimed that he struggled with the decision but signed it as he reflected upon what he would want if facing his own death. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Critics of the Bible were quick to respond. “There is a deadly mix when you combine our broken healthcare system with assisted suicide, which immediately becomes the cheapest treatment,” says Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in Berkeley. “The so-called protections written into the bill really amount to very little.”
Los Angeles Times columinist, Charlie Camosy, expressed his opposition this way.
“We’ve created a culture that worships freedom, autonomy and productivity, and pushes those who don’t fit that picture to the margins. Is it any wonder that poll data show that the poor and blacks and Latinos, along with virtually every disability rights group, are skeptical of assisted suicide?”
But a more important question is “What does the Bible say?” While there is not a specific prohibition on assisted suicide, there are some precepts to guide our conclusions.
There are only two cases of assisted suicide in the Bible. Abimelech who believed that he was fatally wounded and asked his armor bearer to kill him to be spared the indignity of being killed by a woman. (Judges 9:52-55). Second, is King Saul who was mortally injured and asked an unnamed Amalekite to take his life. (2 Sam. 16:6-9). However, David did not commend the young man for a “mercy killing,” but rather condemned him.
Consider these Bible principles.
(1) Human life, created by God, is sacred. It begins at conception and ends when the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ps 139:13-16; Eccl 12:7)
(2) The Bible prohibits killing legally innocent people. This is formalized in the 6th commandment of the Decalogue, and is stated in the law of Christ (Ex 20:13; Lev 24:17-21; Rom. 13:9)
(3) Our bodies belong to God, not us (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not our choice to end life.
(4) Our response to pain and suffering is to trust God. Job did not seek to end his life while enduring extreme physical pain. Instead he sought communion with God and searched to find meaning to his suffering.
(5) Every event in life has purpose. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven — A time to give birth and a time to die” (Eccl 3:1-2)
(6) Physical suffering can produce spiritual strength. (2 Cor 4:16-18; 2 Cor 12:7-11). God’s grace can give us the strength to endure pain and offers insight into the unseen world. Our hope is not in the life, but the promise of a better body.
(7) Our suffering provides a means for others to minister God’s purpose (Jas 5:14; 1Thess 5:11). When Epaphroditus was “sick to the point of death,” the brethren were not instructed to have mercy and take his life. Rather God bestowed mercy on him and his life was spared. (Phil 2:25-30)
The legalization of physician-assisted suicide has serious consequences far beyond the potential for abuses or problems in our legal system. It infringes upon the prerogative of the Almighty.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman