Tag Archives: euthanasia

Why euthanasia is a bad idea

(Original Title : Truthspeakers : Alex Schadenberg on euthanasia of “difficult patients” in the UK)

When my mother was gradually losing her memory, and sometimes wanting to die, my Dad knew he could not end her life for her.  I’m glad he had that depth of conviction, but I’m also glad that the laws of our land do not permit euthanasia or assisted suicide.  I hope that does not change, despite the recent ruling by Justice Lynn Smith.

In a recent blog post ( Killing patients who are difficult to manage is becoming common in the UK ), Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition describes what happens in a society where euthanasia comes to be seen as normal.  I don’t normally reblog, in fact I have only done so on one other occasion, but this post was too significant to ignore. Please take the time to click on the link and read it.




Standing against the seduction of death

In this blog post I want to highlight the work of a man of integrity and conviction.  I also want to start a new series of posts that will highlight the views of other truthspeakers – people who speak truths that go against the grain of what is popularly believed in our society.

My mother died a little over three years ago, after suffering the gradual decline of Alzheimer’s disease over several years, followed by a debilitating stroke which eventually resulted in her being unable to communicate verbally.  She passed from this life about a year and a half after her stroke.

In many ways her passing was a relief.  Yet, although my mother was unable to speak for the last eighteen months of her life, and needed help for the simplest of bodily functions, I do not believe her final months were wasted time.  A couple of weeks after her stroke, Marion and I had the opportunity to pray with her and help her entrust herself to Jesus.  We asked her if she wanted us to ask Jesus to take her fears away, and she nodded perceptibly.  After we had prayed with her, she seemed to relax and her anxiety level diminished greatly.   Not long after this, her ability to speak vanished completely.  But because humans are made in the image of God, I knew that even though her body and mind were damaged, her spirit was still fully alive.   In this conviction I sang her songs and hymns whenever I visited her during the next eighteen months.  Others found other ways to show love to her.  These final months provided many opportunities for my mother’s loved ones to care for someone who had been a generous, openhearted benefactor to her children and grandchildren – as well as many others – over many years.

At one point, several months before her stroke, Dad told me that in her frustration and fear, Mom had told him she wanted to die.  His response to her was that it was not his place to make the decision to end her life.  Although in his latter years my father did not consider himself a Christian, I am grateful that his choices were significantly influenced by Biblical beliefs about life.

Had she been living in her native Netherlands, events might have played out quite differently.  In that nation, euthanasia has been legal since 2002, but has been practised with increasing acceptance since the early 1980s, and it is now not uncommon for victims of early-stage dementia to be euthanized.

Notably, wherever euthanasia has been legalized, it becomes more and more common for doctors to make the decision to euthanize the patient without anyone’s consent.   This is well documented.

The culture of death is seductive.  It sneaks up on us in seemingly innocent guises, clothed in what appears to be compassion.  Yet a society that legalizes euthanasia – even in the name of compassion – opens the door to much potential abuse.  As a believer in Jesus, I am convinced that every human life has eternal value, and therefore it is morally wrong for doctors to end the lives of their patients.   But one does not have to be a Christian to recognize the risks inherent in legalizing euthanasia.

Consider the recent Rasouli case that was judged by the Ontario Court of Appeal.  Mr. Rasouli, a mechanical engineer who had come to this country from Iran, had been diagnosed with a non-malignant tumour.  After surgery, he suffered brain damage due to bacterial meningitis, and is now in what doctors describe as a vegetative state.  His family believes he can still communicate with them, yet the doctors at Sunnybrook contended that further treatment was futile, and wanted to be allowed to withdraw further treatment and move him to palliative care.  Although this would not be euthanasia in its narrowest definition, it is a step down that path, as it implies that doctors have the right to decide unilaterally who continues to be worthy of treatment.  His wife – who had herself practised medicine in her native Iran – intervened to oppose such a move.  With the help of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), she won her case.

The Rasouli family are Muslims.  They believe that life is a gift from God.  They also believe that there is still hope for the recovery of their husband and father.  I do not share their Muslim faith, but I do share their conviction that life is God’s gift.  I am grateful that the EPC took the risk of intervening in this case.  I have the utmost respect for the EPC and its founder, Alex Schadenberg, who since 1999 has dedicated his considerable energies and talents to opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

After my mother’s stroke, the family made a collective decision that she should not be resuscitated if she stopped breathing.  This is not the same thing as euthanasia.  After her stroke, the hospital did everything possible to treat her, and she was not moved to palliative care until the family gave its consent.  Once she had been moved to a nursing home, she continued to receive the best care available while she lived.

Consider the implications of living in a society where doctors have the unilateral right to decide who may live and who may die.  In Nazi Germany, many who were not perfect specimens of Aryan supremacy (not only Jews, but the mentally and physically disabled) were put to death.  Others were made the subjects of horrific experiments.

You may think such things could never happen in Canada.  Although I disagree with that assertion, I will choose not to debate the point, but will turn to another, perhaps more believable scenario.  Consider the pressure of finances on our medical system.  One can easily imagine that under the pressure of finances, medical practitioners might feel compelled to decide that treatment is no longer justified, effectively pulling the plug on someone’s life.  However, neither medical nor financial perspectives provide an adequate basis for assessing the value of a human life.

We live in a society that has increasingly jettisoned its Christian roots and embraced humanistic and naturalistic assumptions.  As Paul states in Romans 1:21, this inevitably leads to a truncated perspective on life – a sort of “tunnel vision” which is really a form of blindness.  Although Alex Schadenberg does not use theological arguments in his battle to protect the rights and dignity of the dying, his viewpoint is thoroughly theistic.  He is a catalyst for opponents of euthanasia around the world, as well as others who defend a Biblical perspective on various social issues.   He has also been willing to pay the price of his convictions and has stayed the course for over twelve years.  He does not draw attention to the pressures of this work on himself and his family (financial or otherwise), but they must be considerable.  The EPC has not yet paid the full legal bill for its intervention in the Rasouli case, and now faces the real prospect of an appeal from a euthanasia lobby that is well-funded and quite popular among the media and the liberal intellectual elite of our society.  If this post motivates you to support the work of the EPC, I’m sure Alex would be glad to hear from you.


In God’s image : of high value

In some of my recent posts I’ve been exploring what it means that we are made in God’s image.   Today I want to look at what this tells us about the value of human life.

NOTE to small group leaders : I’m including this post in the Small Groups category because this is an issue that some of you may want to discuss in your small groups.

My mother died in April 2008, having lived almost eighty-six years.   She had been an active, vital woman for most of her life, staying in vibrant good health through her seventies and into her eighties.  But early in her eighties, she began showing occasional signs of confusion and mild memory loss.  Eventually a geriatric assessment revealed that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.   My father cared for her at home until she suffered a severe stroke in September 2006, as a result of which she required a level of care that could not be offered at home.

Throughout the years of Mom’s slow decline with Alzheimers, and the year and a half that she was hospitalized after her stroke, all her loved ones did our best to keep communicating with her.  It wasn’t easy, especially for Dad, but we wanted to continue to honour her and care for her while we had the opportunity.

Even though most of my siblings would not claim Christian faith for themselves,  I believe we were in part operating out of a deep-seated conviction that Mom’s life continued to have intrinsic value despite her condition.  Certainly that was, and is, my conviction.   In that conviction, Marion and I talked to Mom about Jesus a couple of weeks after she had had her stroke and was still struggling to communicate.   We encouraged her to put her trust in Him when she seemed fearful, and noticed that she became much more peaceful after we had prayed.  Even months later, after she had become much less responsive, we continued to speak to her as if she could hear and understand.  We did this believing that her spirit was alive, even though her mind and body were failing.

Although all creatures are of value because they came from the hand of God, Jesus made it clear that people are of more value to God than sheep or  sparrows .   He did not say that only people who are well have value.  On the contrary, he healed lepers, whom most wouldn’t touch, and spent time with those that society had discarded.  By shedding his blood for our redemption, Jesus underscored the high value that God places on every human life.  God’s image in us is worth so much to God that Jesus died to see that image restored!

When Mom was close to the end of her life, her loved ones agreed that if her life began to ebb away, artificial life support would not be used to keep her alive.   I was completely at pleace with that decision because it respects the ultimate sovereignty of God.  However, I could never have agreed to either euthanasia or assisted suicide.    Her life came from the hand of God, and not being God, I lacked the wisdom and authority to say that her life was no longer worth living.

Once we accept the conviction that some human lives are of more value than others,  we are on a slippery slope that can lead to all kinds of abuse.  The thinking that justifies assisted suicide at end of life will inevitably lead to increased suicide rates for people of all ages, probably especially teens who are prone to emotional highs and lows.   After all, when you are depressed, you sometimes feel life isn’t worth living.  Time to end it all?  If your friendly purveyors of assisted suicide are available to help you on your way, why not?

Though euthanasia against the patient’s will is not officially sanctioned yet,  there is good reason to believe that it is already occurring in the Netherlands and perhaps elsewhere.   Where will this slippery slope lead?  Adolf Hitler’s evolutionary belief system, with its conviction that some forms of human life were more evolved and therefore more valuable than others, led to the Nazi holocaust and was used to justify innumerable medical experiments, some of extreme cruelty.   I don’t want to live in Hitler’s world – do you?

I am moved by the story of a South American AIDS patient who wanted to be euthanized, but changed his mind when someone took the time to become his friend.  We can’t always trust our own perception of the value of our existence – especially when we are under extreme stress.  The Bible says that the human heart is easily deceived.   Only a robust belief system that is convinced of the value and purpose of human life can withstand the assault of the culture of death.

Believing that all people are made in God’s image means that we respect human life from beginning to end.   It also affects how we treat those around us.   Our society is not only increasingly tolerant of both abortion and euthanasia, it is also increasingly given to elder abuse, bullying, hazing, sexting, putdowns as a form of humour, and various other more subtle expressions of the conviction that some human lives matter more than others.

Christ-followers are called to live according to a different set of values than the world around us.   As society gets darker and a culture of death and despair takes root, we are called to let our minds be renewed by the Word of God so that we can represent the values of the Kingdom of God and be salt and light in a world that desparately needs hope.