An ethical alternative to euthanasia
The following article was written by Colin Postma in his position as board chair for the Hamilton Area ARPA Chapter.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
– Robert Frost
Advocates of euthanasia spread the message that death is a tool of convenience for the living to take control of their own lives, and snatch it out of the hands of fate. They paint a picture that the fearful and dark woods of death are indeed wild, but that in contrast to the harsh realities of our cold world, beautiful and restful sleep can be found in its dark embrace.
However death should not be the solution to our problems but rather standing fast on the value of human Life! Using death as a tool only undermines human rights, it does not further them. But there is an alternative. A better alternative. An ethical alternative.
Palliative Care is the specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal of such therapy is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Modern healthcare aims primarily to resolve the patient’s physical health problems, and not to deal with the mental, spiritual, and emotional problems that are all associated with serious illness. Palliative care fills that gap.
At an event held in Hamilton, Ontario on March 27th, Helen ‘t Hart, a palliative care nurse, Dr. Andre Moolman, a physician specializing in palliative care, and Rick Ludwig, a funeral director each spoke about their experiences providing specialized medical and end-of-life care for people with serious illnesses. They addressed challenging questions such as: How should we look after those approaching the end of their life on earth? A majority of Canadians today want to choose death on their own terms, how should we respond? Do we keep our loved ones alive as long as possible? What do we need to do to prevent doctors taking steps we do not want with our end-of-life care? In answering these questions, the speakers pointed out first and foremost that God is sovereign over life and death. He who gives life has the authority to take it away. They concluded that we do have the ability to ease suffering, and that is what we are called to do, as followers of Christ’s example. By means of a case study they portrayed how a real life situation could develop – how a person deals with it, and how they relate their concerns to others. They also pointed out the importance of end-of-life planning for everyone, to ensure your wishes are met and that you are not subjected to something you do not agree with.
For Reformed Christians this is the perfect biblical alternative to euthanasia and the culture of death in our society. Jesus’ challenge of Matthew 25:37-40 emphasizes our calling to provide for those with critical illness and those facing end of life:
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
For Christians the story of our life does not end with euthanasia, nor palliative care, nor even death itself – for we have a message of great hope that extends beyond the grave. Jesus Christ has conquered death and lives forevermore and promises that to us. This is the glorious message of joy that we have the privilege of delivering to those who proclaim a culture of death as the ultimate solution.
At the Hamilton event, Revelations 21 verse 3-5 was read in closing, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'”
Helen ‘t Hart, Dr. Andre Moolman, and Rick Ludwig are open to requests for this event to be repeated, if other ARPA groups or others passionate about the cause would be willing to host them. Helen can be contacted at [email protected] for more info.
An audio recording of this event is available in MP3 format for anyone who requests it.