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 Vol. 4, No. 12 

December, 2002

Associate Editorial

~ Page 3 ~

Euthanasia: The Moral
Side of the Issue

By Steven P. Smithbauer

Image When dealing with moral issues, emotions can often overcharge the situation and cloud our better judgment. The subject of euthenasia is one such issue. Although opposed to it, one can sympathize with those who struggle with a loved one who is non-recuperative and suffering.

There is no reference in the Bible, Old or New Testament, that directly deals with euthanasia, so we cannot give a "Thou shalt not..." here. But, in principle, the Scriptures do teach that euthanasia is wrong. But, that means little if we don't first define some terms. According to International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, "[euthanasia] formerly called mercy killing, means intentionally making someone die, rather than allowing that person to die naturally. Put bluntly, [it is]killing in the name of compassion." The question is, do we have the right to make such a decision? People are divided on this. One Scripture that serves as a guideline on this issue is Job 1:21-22, where Job states,

"...Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."

Only God has the right to take human life away.

Some related terms that need to be discussed are:

Murder: The taking of one's life. Most concede this is morally wrong. Exodus 20 reveals, "Thou shalt not kill." This means literally, to do no murder. It is not a prohibition against capital punishment for the same God commanded in Genesis 9:6, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Further, one cannot logically use Exodus 20 as a conscientious objection to avoid military service. God also commanded the Israelites on numerous occasions to kill their enemies in wartime. When one killed in self-defense, God provided the cities of refuge whereby the defendant could have a fair hearing, and be spared if indeed the death was accidental or in self-defense.

Suicide: The taking of one's own life or self inflicted murder. Generally this is considered wrong by most, but because of such as depression, mental instability, etc., not as strongly. Judas is an example in Matthew 26:24, "it had been good for that man if he had not been born." Judas hanged himself. He died with the betrayal of the Lord and his own murder unrepented!

Assisted Suicide: Also a form of euthanasia. This is where a non-suicidal person provides the means by which a suicidal person can terminate his/her life.

Why then is euthanasia, mercy killing, a more cloudy issue? Perhaps it is so due to the motive behind it. To kill out of anger or hatred most would agree is definitely wrong! But, what if the motive is pity, compassion, love? It is much easier to condemn a cold-blooded serial killer, but what if the perpetrator is a son or daughter lovingly, mercifully ending the life of a suffering parent. Such could not be wrong, could it? A word of caution is appropriate here. Human beings are quick to be overwhelmed by feelings. Yet, in all of this emotion, one thing still remains the same. Whatever the motive, euthanasia is murder, the taking of a life, instead of allowing the natural process of death to take place.

Why doesn't the Bible mention anything specific about euthanasia? Simply put, it wasn't an issue. This should raise a red flag for us today. Rather than asking why God doesn't deal directly with it, maybe we should be asking, "What's different today that makes this an issue?" We are living today under a system of morals that Joseph Fletcher termed, "The New Morality" or "Situation Ethics." Fletcher stated, "There is no absolute right or wrong, but the situation determines morality." In other words, the end justifies the means. Fletcher believed that so long as we do "the loving thing" it will be the right thing. Murder becomes all right, so long as it is motivated by compassion. What does the student of God's Word say to this? Friends, some things are always right, and some things are always wrong,  of the motive or the situation! The Bible is the best guide for us, because its author, God, is All Knowing and incapable of error. He is also our Creator. Who would know better how we would best function besides the God who made us? Basically, we came with an instruction manual!

If there are no specific condemnations, why then, do we say that biblical principles forbid euthanasia? Well, if there is an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator, God, and if that Creator has given us instructions by which we are to live, i.e. the Bible, then what is written there becomes an absolute standard for us to follow! God condemns murder by command in several passages and suicide by example and inference. It is God who gave human life and it is God who will take it away. There are some notable exceptions such as wartime, capital punishment and self-defense, but the general rule is that a man is not to take another man's life, NO MATTER WHAT THE MOTIVE. It is not immoral for God to take life, but we overstep our bounds when we presume to know the proper time and manner in which a person dies. God knows all and is able to make such decisions; we are unqualified. Certainly, we have compassion on the suffering and dying. We empathize with them and truly hurt with them, but to cause their death, even out of compassion, is not the right thing for us to do.

Euthanasia is just another term for a specific kind of murder -- murder out of compassion, instead of anger. However, there is within the sacred Scriptures a standard of absolute morals. Some things are always right, and some are always wrong as outlined in the Bible. God is qualified to set such standards because of his omniscience. We are not qualified to set such standards due to our limited understanding. Assisted suicide, such as Jack Kevorkian practices, is a type of euthanasia. Question: Kevorkian claims his "subjects" are all "voluntary." How long until involuntary euthanasia is practiced? How long until we can "put mom & dad out of their misery"? [or honestly, out of our misery! ~ Editor]

The Living will, or the withholding of life-saving procedures from the elderly or terminally ill is not necessarily wrong. It is simply letting nature take its course. It is also submission to the God of heaven who always knows and does what is best. Always remember, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away..." Recommended reading includes International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, FAQ's. "Refuting 'Death With Dignity.'" Image

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