ASSISTED SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA
What is the issue? Does the Bible provide any help to resolve the dilemma?
On the question of assisted suicide and euthanasia, the only Biblical reference I can think of is the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) It is the most important dictum to define the justifiable homicide, that is an act to end another human life legally. Homicide is a loaded word, because it is used most often in relation to crime. I use it to show my instinctive dislike of any act of destruction of life. In the ideal world, there should be no homicide in any situation, any time, any where. It affirms the fundamental principle of sanctity of life as a gift of God in creation. However, the fact is, throughout history this commandment has been ignored selectively, never obeyed universally nor unconditionally. In other words, the principle of justifiable homicide has often been applied to exempt certain number of situations.
War, capital punishment, self-defence, protection of property, use of lethal force to maintain public order are used to justify killing people. The number of countries that have death penalty in the statute book, however, is decreasing in the industrialised countries. Recently, *physician assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia have been added to the list of justifiable homicide in certain number of countries, a province and states: Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Quebec, Oregon, Vermont, Montana, and Washington. And public support for it is increasing. The primary argument for PAS is horrible quality of life such as incurable disease, chronic and unbearable pain and suffering. For those sufferers life has become unbearable.
* Assisted suicide and euthanasia present two separate issues. But I am not going into technicality here, as this is a paper for the Bible Study not a legal exercise.
However, we must remind ourselves that this issue has arisen because of positive developments in the quality of care for life in respect for creation. We should rejoice in that. Because of the rapid development of medical science and technology, and of other disciplines such as better understanding of psychological and sociological conditions, life on earth is safer and longer, and increasingly with compassion. We can prolong life as long as we had ever imagined possible. Life with pain and suffering are often the result of unprecedented longevity. We have never lived so long until such side-effects appeared. But the fact that we managed to prolong life as much as we have, does not mean anyone has the right to terminate it. In the ideal world no homicide does not have to be justified. Meanwhile in reality, pain and suffering do exist. It is natural that a compassionate person wishes to help suffering persons to have their wish. PAS is justified as an interim measure until the Kingdom comes.
We should all be working toward creation of an utopian society where everyone lives out their natural life without pain and suffering. It means the universal palliative facilities and end-of-life hospice care for all allowing those with chronic pain, to live out their lives in comfort. In the Bible, Second Isaiah dreamed about such a world and called it “New Jerusalem.”. (Isaiah 65: 20)