Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Assisted Suicide

Physician-assisted suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia are names attached to the debate over whether terminally ill persons have the right to be assisted in ending their own lives. Some countries make legal, the open assistance in ending the life of terminally ill persons at the patient's request. These include Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, where there are a variety of legal steps to assure the legal option is not abused. A summary of laws around the world is found here World Laws on Euthanasia.

In the United States, 341 Oregon residents used that state's Death with Dignity law to have an assisted suicide death in the laws first ten years of existance according to Oregon's state website.

A news article at London-based Religious Intelligence notes changing views in England where a recent poll in The Times showed 74 per cent those surveyed want to permit doctors to assist terminally ill people in ending their own lives. England's Royal College of Nursing also changed its official position in opposition to assisted suicide to take on an officially ‘neutral position.’

The Religious Intelligence article states,
Two principles are likely to sway the debate. On the one side there is the sanctity of human life and the fear that if assisted suicide is permitted under certain clearly defined circumstances we will find ourselves on a slippery slope leading to a situation where old and vulnerable people who sense that they have become a burden to others will feel obliged to put an end to their lives. It is not hard to see a precedent in the way reform of the abortion law led to abortion on demand.

On the other side is the great modern creed of human autonomy. Individuals, it is argued, have the right to self-determination and this must include the right to take away their own life. We live in a society that emphasises freedom of choice. It is not surprising that doctors should be criticised for showing ‘therapeutic zeal’ and ignoring the wishes of their patients in battling against death.

One of the difficulties Christians face in the debate is how to put forward their own point of view in such a way that will appeal to fellow citizens who do not share their faith. Professor Nigel Biggar has provided an excellent discussion from a Christian perspective in his book Aiming to Kill. There he suggests that the value of human life lies not in the freedom to decide value but ‘in the freedom to acknowledge and decide the value that is given by God’....

Euthanasia and assisted suicide become acceptable when people fail to see any objective value in human life and assume it has only the worth we choose to assign it. Without belief in God, it is difficult to see how anyone can give objective value to human life.
I believe that our lives are in God's hands and that we are called to be faithful unto death, even inthe midst of great suffering. That is not easy to ask of others, and yet I see no Christian basis for supporting euthanasia. All I see is the slippery slope of what would follow from making assisted suicide legal.

That's my take. What's yours?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 10/12/2009 7:30 AM, Anonymous Kelly said…

    "Thou shalt not kill!" It's a commandment that I always assumed included taking my own life as well as another's.

    We're all going to die eventually. I don't believe that knowing the approximate time and cause of death should give somebody the right to take their own life in order to avoid suffering. The majority of people will suffer during death anyway due to auto accidents, murder, war, torture, starvation, etc...never knowing when their time will come.

    "He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again..." Jesus didn't deny His own suffering knowing the time and place of His death. He carried the cross!

  • At 10/12/2009 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jesus was not a terminally ill patient. He was murdered. He allowed himself to be killed. So one could argue that he assisted in his own death for a higher purpose.

  • At 10/12/2009 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you have ever been a caregiver of a terminally ill person, you would understand that it isn’t an issue of “AVOIDING” suffering but a clear issue of relieving ongoing suffering. Its not an issue of “if the life is to be saved“, but an issue of prolonging death. What about the patient who says “I never want to live on a ventilator or vegetable state” creates a living will and names the person to uphold their wishes and when that time comes to honor the wishes of the patient said person does so, are they not assisting in the death? Or are they only assisting in natural death.

  • At 10/12/2009 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Relieving pain and easing suffering, DNR, no artificial means of life support are different than assisted suicide where somebody actually takes a life.

  • At 10/12/2009 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think it is about easing suffering, but ending suffering. If a terminally ill patient wants to end his or her life, I think they should have that choice. Choice when it comes to a DNR, Choice to deny food and water. Choice to deny medicine that may extend life. The choice to have someone assist with ending their life. How do we draw the line to say what is suicide and what is natural death? I'm healthy but if chose not to eat, I would die. Is that a natural death or suicide?

  • At 10/13/2009 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Denying yourself the basic and natural means to live (food and water) would be suicide. Anything else, including medicines, are artificial means to extend life. Denying yourself or somebody else food and water will lead to a slow and painful death.

    Questions; What about the severe mentally depressed who's pain and suffering is equally real and feel they have no quality of life because the only way to end the depression is through medication that may or may not work? What about the person who feels that he/she is a burden to the family financially because of a permenant handicap and feels he/she has no quality of life? They know they are going to die sometime. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be anytime.

    Their suicides have been viewed as tragic and cowardice by society.


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