21 September 2017

CONSIDER … Euthanasia…

“The ability to decide when, where and how one’s life will end is the basic human right.”

raThese words are the express opinion of Tony Nicklinson, a 58-year-old man suffering from ‘Locked-in syndrome’ caused by a stroke that occurred seven years ago. Prior to his stroke Mr Nicklinson was an extremely active man who enjoyed travel, sport and an outgoing lifestyle. Horrifically, his daily reality is living with a fully functioning mind trapped in an almost completely unresponsive body. He is paralysed from the neck down and can only communicate using hightech computer software that can read the movement of his eyes as they scan across the on-screen keyboard. He is completely reliant on others for every aspect of his care and even drawing breath is a laboured affair. He is, quite literally, locked inside a failing body.

I cannot for one second stretch my ability to empathise far enough to claim I can understand or imagine how this might feel. It is a totally horrendous situation and a true tragedy for both Tony and his wife and daughters. No one could question why Tony would want to have his suffering come to an end, however, the huge debate sparked by his case deals with how this end should be achieved.

Recent headlines have very succinctly detailed the fact that Mr Nicklinson has brought a case to the High Court requesting that any doctor responsible for taking his life would be free from the threat of being charged with murder.This is a step beyond many recent cases wherein individuals have appealed to the courts to alter the law in order to safeguard loved ones from prosecution for assisting suicide. In Mr Nicklinson’s case he is so severely disabled that he could not attempt suicide, therefore a doctor would have to single-handedly take his life with no assistance from Tony himself. This is euthanasia at its most fundamental level.

Many essays have been penned and many lectures have been given dealing with the arguments for and against euthanasia. I do not propose to take you through each of the issues in this article. Suffice to say that as a Christian I cannot find any way to support the decision of an individual to take their own life, and certainly not to place the responsibility of ending their life in the hands of a fellow human being. My reasons for my opinion are simple.

Firstly, Scripture clearly tells us that God has every day of our lives planned, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). Our time does not belong to us. Contrary to Mr Nicklinson’s view that it is a basic human right to decide when, where and how one one’s life will end, I trust that God has that planned for each of us already, and that it will bring about the fruition of His perfect plan for each of our lives. Selwyn Hughes puts it beautifully when he says, “…time is not ours, but His…Time is valuable” and should be used, “as wisely as possible to the glory of God” (A Year With Selwyn Hughes, 2011:172). After all, that’s why we’re here – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God!” (Shorter Catechism)

Secondly, I believe that in asking someone to take responsibility for ending a life we are, in actual fact, asking them to commit murder (and doesn’t this infringe on their human rights?) God made His thoughts on this very clear when He delivered the Ten Commandments, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The intent behind the act is not the same of course, but the outcome is, and that person will have to stand before God and give an account of why they prematurely ended the life of a fellow human being.In supporting euthanasia we are promoting the idea that it is perfectly reasonable for us to take on the role of God – to stand in His place and take control of the reins. Didn’t this very same act get Satan thrown out of Heaven?

There are so many other arguments that could be outlined here, and I certainly welcome any opinions you may have on this very controversial issue – do take a moment to contact the Feedback Forum if you have a thought to share on this topic. However, I wish to convey the fact that the core of my response to watching and listening to Mr Nicklinson’s plight was not one of condemnation at his desire to die, but rather a heart ache that we live in the kind of society within which people believe it is preferable to die than to see the true purpose in each of our lives. We have so thoroughly ejected God from our hearts that we begin to believe that our purpose and our worth comes from our own abilities to perform basic daily tasks and to follow our own desires. In failing to submit to God we are in danger of missing the blessing He has for us in all circumstances, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Mr Nicklinson believes that a decision against him, “condemns” him to a “‘life of increasing misery.” As understandable as this is, it saddens me that this man, and many, many others, do not see that each moment of life is given by God and that His plan for us is to give us “hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). The argument surrounding euthanasia will continue to rage on, but I hope that each time we, as Christians, are faced with it, we will respond lovingly and pray that God will reveal Himself to each suffering person and show them a new way to live.

Christine Cordner