Euthanasia is defined as the deliberate painless killing of someone "suffering from an incurable disease or irreversible coma". Incurable? Irreversible?
Based on the current state of medical knowledge a well qualified experienced doctor is probably able to opine thus, BUT...never say never?
If a loved one is in an apparently hopeless state of existence exhibiting no outwardly meaningful quality of life, perhaps in severe pain without any realistic hope of recovery, euthanasia motivated by a loving desire to alleviate distressing suffering, can no doubt become a seriously considered option.
Does God have a view here?
He allowed this statement to enter His book: Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better off than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verse 4: 'old' unaltered NIV).
So who is right and can a line of 'rightness' be drawn in the sand?
Line of 'rightness'
On the expectation this verse in Ecclesiastes is meaningful, does it only apply to the spiritual realm and irrespective of the state of (un)awareness or even (un)consciousness of the patient? Or did this simply (and only) mean that life is better than death?
Could the "deliberate painless killing" that follows prevent the happening of the spiritual rebirth of the deceased or would God nevertheless quietly intervene beforehand?
If on the other hand the 'hope while there's life' statement applies to both the spiritual and physical realms, then it follows that any doctor who states that the loved one's life situation is hopeless thereby warranting euthanasia, would be directly contradicting God.
If euthanasia were ever to be legalised what should be the required mental state of the deceased for it to be sanctioned by law?
What should happen in the following situations?
- the person is incurably, irreversibly (?), maybe criminally, insane; or
- is in a state of extended unconsciousness, perhaps in a trauma-induced coma; or
- is suffering intolerable pain that medication cannot adequately dull/resolve.
If the person is simply old, frail, lonely and bored with life, then apart from natural causes, suicide or misadventure, death would probably only result from murder.
Who should take the necessary step(s) to bring about the 'desired' end?
For obvious reasons no relative could be allowed to be the 'moving party'. So if the procedure were to be carried out, who should that someone be? A doctor, a government official or perhaps a 'euthanasia celebrant'?
Could intentionally killing someone ever be argued to have been carried out for that person's good?
Would that involve reducing a human being to the status of a terminally ill pet dog being taken to the veterinary clinic for execution?
Here we have arrived at the basic issue of what it is to be human, and whether one person should ever have the legally-sanctioned right to terminate the precious (sacred) life of another.
What does God say?
The sixth commandment simply says: You shall not murder. (Exodus chapter 20 verse 13 NIV). The study Bible footnote tells us that the Hebrew of this verse usually refers to a premeditated and deliberate act.
Jesus refines and expands that commandment (recorded in Matthew chapter 5 verse 21) to extend beyond the physical act to include the intent or state of mind and heart even minus the act.
Should a spouse or parent ever be able to argue that out of love they arranged for the deliberate killing of a long-suffering partner or child?
It has happened that a jury has acquitted the perpetrator and the Crown has not appealed but allowed the matter to rest, the jury having made the difficult decision.
As a lawyer (retired) I doubt I could ever advocate for the legalisation of euthanasia (it is illegal in Australia) even though I have never been confronted by the harrowing experience of a loved-one enduring unending, intolerable pain.
An available alternative course is for the terminally-ill person to take up residence in a palliative care hospice thereby relieving some (admittedly probably not all) of the distress of the caring relative(s).
What does God say?
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians chapter 3 verse 17).
Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. (Galatians chapter 5 verses 13b, 14).
Knowing that the above verses appear in my LORD's Book, were an incurably painful terminal illness ever to become her physical condition (God-willing it won't), I nevertheless seriously doubt I could ever sanction the "deliberate painless killing" of my wife of 42 years, or a child.
Checks and balances
There would have to be extremely well-drafted legal checks and balances clearly and unambiguously put in place to enable any sort of 'euthanasia regime' to ever be implemented, including counselling (preferably Christian) and psychological / psychiatric examination before the process could proceed.
As with other areas of law though e.g. taxation, a 'euthanasia law' would have to confront and be tested by the ingenuity of man, including lawyers and relevant medical practitioners.
A foolproof system?
Could such a regime always protect against a determined, ingenious/scheming relative or friend prevailing upon or 'persuading' the final decision-maker to authorise the killing, thereby enabling a handsome inheritance to follow? My experience compels me to say: I strongly doubt it.
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW and author of the book 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism." He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grand parents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html