Me Before You & End Of Life Ethics

In #All, Abortion, Abortion Debate, Apologetics, Assisted Suicide, Autonomy, Euthanasia, Morality & Ethics, Pro-Life by Justin Hornbaker

Me Before You is supposed to be a romantic tear-jerking summer movie starring Sam Claflin (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) that attempts to grab the interest of those who like romantic dramas. But this flick has created controversy by intentionally  promoting assisted suicide and possibly euthanasia as part of its story. I have not seen this movie, but I have read many reviews on it. Regardless of which (or both) it promotes, this is a good opportunity to address both topics because they are closely tied.

On Wikipedia you will find assisted suicide defined as “suicide committed with the aid of another person, sometimes a physician… Assisted suicide and euthanasia are sometimes combined under the umbrella term ‘assisted dying’, an example of a trend by advocates to replace the word ‘suicide’ with ‘death’ or ideally, ‘dying’. Other euphemisms in common use are ‘physician-assisted dying’, ‘physician-assisted death’, ‘aid in dying’, ‘death with dignity’, ‘right to die’, ‘compassionate death’, ‘compassionate dying’, ‘end-of-life choice’, and ‘medical assistance at the end of life’.”

Also from Wikipedia, “Euthanasia (from Greek: εὐθανασία; “good death”: εὖ, eu; “well” or “good” – θάνατος, thanatos; “death”) is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering… Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries. Non-voluntary euthanasia (patient’s consent unavailable) is illegal in all countries. Involuntary euthanasia (without asking consent or against the patient’s will) is also illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.”

If we look at both definitions from Google we will see that more specifics are added such as “incurable disease” and “irreversible coma” (here and here), but historically those conditions alone are too narrow for both definitions because both have been used for non-disease disabilities and even for the cause of eugenics.

The only real difference between the two is who makes the decision about the candidate for death. Voluntary euthanasia is is actually a version of euthanasia which is nearly interchangeable with the term assisted suicide. In assisted suicide the subject makes the decision to die, but with all forms of euthanasia besides voluntary someone other than the patient makes the decision for the killing to occur.

This topic being promoted in a popular summer movie seems to be a result of a cultural movement which has gotten steam in the last few years. The most prominent example was in 2014 when Brittany Maynard opted for assisted suicide by her doctor after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Instead of living out the rest of her short life with the people she held dear, she opted to take her own life to avoid any suffering that her condition would bring about.

The Problem

The Christian whose authority is the Word of God has a lot to say on this issue. End of life ethics are tied to beginning of life ethics because many of the same cases we make for defending the innocent lives of infants in the womb are cases we must employ for movements which promote assisted suicide. On a practical note, common sense tells us that rules should not be made based on the exception; unfortunately it is becoming more and more common to justify dangerous ideas based on exceptions. Keep this in mind when you consider issues such as assisted suicide and euthanasia because you will see this happen often.

Many people who you talk to – your friends and co-workers, or even people your family – will take the opposing view on this. If you stand against these ideas you will be made to look heartless and insensitive. What I want to you to realize is that this is a tactic meant to throw the opposition off guard if it is being used simply because of a disagreement. If someone is promoting this who has an unfortunate condition or has loved ones who does, be sure to show kindness by giving that person your condolences. This is a courtesy and a mark of being a good ambassador for Christ. I’m not saying actually be insensitive by saying unkind things. Instead, stand your ground intellectually in the event you are deemed insensitive by simply disagreeing.

Since end of life ethics are so closely tied to the beginning of life ethics if we surrender on this front, logically, we will have to surrender on the abortion issue as well.

Here is why…

Reasons used for promoting assisted suicide and euthanasia go hand in hand with justifications used to abort innocent children in the womb. In order to see this clearly though, we need to look at how human life gets value and why any all suicide is wrong.

First, the main issue. In pro-life there really is only one question and that question is, “What is it?” If what is in the womb of a mother from day one is a unique valuable whole human being, then there is no justification for killing the unborn. The most pressing part of answering this question is who or what gives value to human persons to begin with? In short, there is no substantial way to give a human person value apart from the God of the Bible. God is the Creator of all and He created us bearing His image (Gen. 1:26), therefore all human life no matter how old, young, small, great, developed, undeveloped or damaged is valuable beyond measure. Take this away and we will be at the mercy of the most influential in society to determine human value.

Next, we allow a doctor to take the life of someone or allow someone to take their own life, we are usurping God’s authority (Job 14:5). In other words, we are playing God. God is the author of life (Acts 3:15, Job 33:4) and the only One who ought to determine our death. God has a lot to say about those who take life into their own hands (Exodus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20), the crime of murder is listed as one of the ten commandments. In the very first case of murder God said Abel’s blood cried out to him from the ground. Taking life is very serious in God’s eyes. It should then be clear that a person taking their own life would be just as serious of a crime in the eyes of God. God is not okay with us taking our life into our own hands. Unfortunately, there are some who would argue that there is no such thing as self-murder.

I’m not going to spend too much time making the case that suicide is in fact murder of self… perhaps that will be another article. But I believe the point should be made that any view that claims suicide is not a sin, or wrong in much the same way as murder, is not informed by the Bible. Suicide is self-murder because you do not own yourself, you were created by God – you are not self-created. Since you are essentially owned by your Creator because he made everything, He ought to be the one who determines when you die. If you are a Christian who takes issue with this then I suggest you dig into the scriptures to figure this out.  

Suicide can only escape being self-murder when the Biblical position is abandoned. In comes ideas like the autonomy position which is extremely popular in culture today. Autonomy is simply “the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere… freedom from external control or influence; independence”… which, without saying, includes excluding God and His rule over us. Not surprisingly, most people assume the autonomy position due to secular education and come to the conclusion that each person has the right to go as far as to take their own life. It’s not to say that our society does not think suicide is a sad thing which should be discouraged, but like all other issues, when you abandon the Truth of God’s Word, there isn’t much to stand on. With this slippery foundation comes an easy justification for assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia.

Autonomy is also used for justifying abortion. Often this argument for abortion is stated as the bodily autonomy claim and is well known today even though it started back in the 70’s. If you’ve ran into this before, it’s often used in a thought experiment about a violinist who you are hooked up to against your will so that he will not perish. Unfortunately this falls short because it is a bad analogy which does not logically parallel with a pregnant woman and an unborn child. But this same argument will take a different form with assisted suicide. It will arise something like this: “This is my life and my body which is suffering this condition, therefore I should have the right to end my suffering when I see fit.” As stated above, this is Godless position and can be a slippery slope.

Other arguments can easily follow which parallel with the abortion debate, especially if voluntary euthanasia is legalized at the federal level. Is it a possibility that non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia would be debated? All one would have to do is redefine personhood based on degree of dependency or quality of life. Those who have been trained to defend the pro-life position will recall the SLED acronym: S = Size, L = Level of Development, E = Environment, and D = Degree of dependency… sure, we may be years away from such debates, but as we’ve seen all that is needed is a controversial situation publicized. Needless to say, it does not take much of an imagination to see where assisted suicide could take us.

Now, why is all this so important? Because if you are a Christian you need to be equipped and ready to stand against the coming wave of this movement. It’s showing no signs of slowing down and we will see more and more of this as time passes. Study this issue and prepare (1 Peter 3:15) to be confronted on it because it is only a matter of time. Don’t sit around and hope this will pass by. If the last few years are any indication with the LGBTQ movement, those who hold non-Biblical worldviews are prepared to change things quickly and drastically. We are called to be ready with an answer and to uphold the truth in love.

 

Need to get equipped? Here are some resources:

 

P. S. – Perhaps in a future article I will examine further the different types of euthanasia in which it is popular to use moral delimmas and extreme scenarios to justify. Please give me your feedback on these topics, thank you for reading!

 

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