Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2000 edition) defines euthanasia as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”
Euthanasia cuts to the core of life and death.
There are several aspects of euthanasia that are important to consider:
(1) LIFE IS A SACRED GIFT FROM GOD.
Our time on this earth is short. Since God is our Creator, He decided the time and manner in which we came into the world, and He decides when it is our time to leave.
James 4:14 states …you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
(2) EACH PERSON’S LIFE IS ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD.
Our life and body belong to God. Each person is called to serve God.
Paul says: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men (Romans 14:18).
(3) CHRIST LOVES THOSE WHOM SOCIETY ATTEMPTS TO REJECT.
Christ paid special attention to the poor, the despised, and those whom the rest of society would like to reject. Can we justify turning our backs on elderly relatives dying in nursing homes? As Christians, we are called to love and respect the ill and dying – not kill them because it is more convenient for us.
But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).
Christ showed His compassion to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Matthew 20:29-34), to the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), and tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mark 2:16). We must do the same.
(4) SUFFERING IS NOT MEANINGLESS.
Christ redeemed the world through His suffering and death on the cross. When a Christian suffers, their pain is joined with Christ’s suffering. We also increase in endurance and hope.
Hebrews 2:10 notes For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Romans 5:3-4 states More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
Keeping these facts in mind, the serious questions must be asked:
DOES GOD APPROVE OF EUTHANASIA?
Any act or purposeful neglect which causes or intends to cause death in order to remove a person from suffering is MURDER. “Mercy killing” is never allowed by God.
Scripture condemns murder. When a person commits murder, he or she breaks one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17). Christ reaffirms this Commandment in Matthew 19:18 as the first in His list of Commandments in order to have eternal life. Matthew points out that murder makes you impure: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man… (Matthew 15:19-20).
The Book of Revelation states that (unrepentant) murderers cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 22:14-15).
Outside of intentional killing, the issue gets real complicated on how far we must go to keep a terminally ill patient alive. The best philosophy comes out of a review of the literature on euthanasia:
SHOULD WE DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO KEEP A TERMINALLY ILL PATIENT ALIVE?
The answer is NO. There is no law of any state or religion (including Christianity) which says that we must stay alive at any cost. Death is a part of life. As Christians, we know that life on this earth is not our final destiny. But our citizenship is in heaven… (Philippians 3:20). For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come (Hebrews 13:14). Everything we do on earth is for the mission of bringing us closer to God. In some cases, prolonging life would not serve that purpose because of severe burden on the family or caregivers.
WHAT MEANS OF TREATMENT SHOULD WE GIVE TO THE SERIOUSLY ILL?
Procedures that are beneficial to the patient without unreasonable hardship to the caregivers are required. If we are able to do something that helps the ill patient, we have to do it as Christians.
Some procedures simply do no good for the patient and are an excessive burden on the family or caregivers – this is where our responsibility ends in attempting to keep the seriously ill person alive.
Euthanasia is a difficult subject. Intentional killing (like euthanasia) is murder. However, we have lived up to the call to protect life if we are (a) using procedures that benefit the patient in some way and (b) not causing excessive hardship on the caregivers.
The Lord would not turn His back on the ill and dying. Neither should we.