By Spencer D Gear
John is 65 and has been suffering from cancer for many years. The pain is too much. When he asks his doctor to put him to sleep permanently (kill him!), should the doctor agree? Jane is only a few weeks old. She was born with a severe genetic disability that is incurable. Sometimes she is in severe distress with pain. Her chances of being able to enjoy a normal life are minimal. Should she be allowed to live or should euthanasia be performed on her?
Euthanasia was once legal in the Northern Territory (Australia). In the twenty-first century, there is considerable public support for euthanasia to be legalised across Australia. There is a minority group of medical practitioners, called the Doctors’ Reform Society that is supportive of euthanasia in certain circumstances. It stated:
It remains abundantly clear to anyone who listens that there is a small group of people who are not ignorant of what we have to offer, who are not depressed, who are not being manipulated, but who, very simply, wish to be the arbiters of the time of their own inevitable death. They remain genuinely grateful for what we have to offer, and for the promises offered by recent advances in palliative care. However, despite our best encouragement, they simply do not wish to lie there with their symptoms well controlled until such time as circumstances beyond their own control decide when their life will end. Their business on earth is finished, they are ready to die, at peace with themselves.
Thankfully, Bundaberg doctors, led by a representative of the Bundaberg branch of the Australian Medical Association, have rejected this promotion. They know that this means: “putting patients down.”
Let’s get it clear what euthanasia is. We are sometimes confused by the current debate because it seems that some are talking about disconnecting mechanical life support systems. Others think that we are denying the patients’ rights to say, “This is enough. I want no extraordinary means to be used to keep me alive when all hope of physical life seems to be gone.” We don’t need euthanasia for this. It is the common law right of all Australians to decide which treatments they want to have for themselves.
Euthanasia is “the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life. For euthanasia to occur, there must be an intention to kill.”
To say that it’s voluntary means that the person asks to be killed. Now, euthanasia promoters don’t use the word “kill”, but it is the only accurate word to describe the reality of what happens. Besides, it is the word that our current law uses.
Worst cases are put forth so that it is made to appear that there is a vast amount of suffering for which nothing less than death is good enough. Yet, I am told that those who practise palliative care with the terminally ill encounter few requests for euthanasia by patients. Too often, the distressed relatives who often feel impotent, sense a lack of support, and may be encountering a financial burden, are the ones calling for euthanasia.
I do not reject euthanasia because of the results it is likely to cause. One has written, “We just don’t trust the law-makers to get such a significant law right.”
Luke Gormally, director of London’s Linacre Bio-Ethics Centre, was in Australia. He warned that legalising euthanasia could lead to “killing the disabled and dependent for economic reasons.” He also warned that euthanasia would endorse youth suicide because of the “wholly negative message” it would send to youth.
We know that when we support voluntary euthanasia, it can go beyond the person’s choice. Holland is the most recent example for which we have a clear evidence. That country has permitted voluntary, active euthanasia for some time, and has recently made it legal.
Dutch medical doctor, Dr. Karel Gunning, on his 1992 visit to Australia said: “Holland has indeed become a very dangerous country, as patients may have their lives ended without their request and without knowledge of the authorities. The doctor thus has become a powerful man, able to decide on life or death.”
The New Scientist magazine (20 June 1992) confirmed this alarming situation in an article titled, “The Dutch way of death.” It stated that “doctors and nurses in the Netherlands can practise euthanasia if they stick to certain guidelines. Yet many patients receive lethal injections without giving their consent.”
“In some hospitals, doctors routinely approach patients who are terminally ill, offering to inject them with lethal doses of barbiturates and curare. But Dutch euthanasia has its sinister side, too. Involuntary euthanasia of sick and elderly people is commonplace in the Netherlands, and that when patients do opt for euthanasia, it is frequently out of fear of being a nuisance rather than to avoid unnecessary physical suffering.
“The details are alarming. At least a third of the 5000 or so Dutch patients who each year receive lethal doses of drugs from their doctors do not give their unequivocal consent. About 400 of these patients never even raise the issue of euthanasia with their doctors. Moreover, of those who willingly opt for euthanasia, only about 5 per cent do so solely because of unbearable pain.”
The magazine concludes that “these revelations strike a blow at the two central canons of the worldwide euthanasia lobby: that euthanasia should be used only as a means to end pointless physical suffering, and that the patient alone should make the decision.”
As one Dutch doctor puts it: “Everywhere doctors are terminating lives. The only difference in Holland is that here we talk about it.”
Even though it is clear from this example that it is impossible to control euthanasia, is this the right kind of morality to follow. By looking to the end results, this is a system of ethics called utilitarianism. A big word, but it simply means that a “good” result (for example, relieving pain of a cancer patient) justifies the means (killing the person–euthanasia). This is a dangerous view.
Two examples show us how bad this view of right and wrong can become. In Germany during World War 2, Hitler’s goal was to develop a more perfect race. A pretty good goal? But his way to attain it was evil (killing six million Jews and millions of others). President Richard Nixon’s goal was a noble one, national security. But the criminal activity of Watergate was not justified to reach it.
There are droves of people in Australia who support this view of morality. We are in deep trouble if this nation follows such an ethical system. The end never justifies the means; the means must justify themselves. An act is not automatically good because it has a good goal.
How do we know what is good? We need a fixed standard of good by which to judge right and wrong, rather than a person’s opinion of what is good. This fixed standard for euthanasia needs to be: murder or assisted murder is always wrong. This is the morality of universal standards of the 10 commandments (the Judeo-Christian worldview).
I have taken this lengthy look at why I do not support euthanasia, based on the end justifying the means, because it is a view of right and wrong that could lead to chaos in our lucky country. Those who support euthanasia and some of those who oppose euthanasia both follow this system of morality.
I reject euthanasia because I support the 10 commandments and believe it is always wrong to murder or assist with the murder of anybody. The foundation of Australian society has been built on this view.
I also reject euthanasia because it is an attack on the sovereignty of God. We must answer two fundamental questions: Who are human beings? Whose right is it to terminate human life? Jesus Christ said, “I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
Human beings are unique and special. God’s view is that we are not higher animals but made “in the image of God.” If human beings are not special, we can do to them what a doctor advocated to me: “We put down dogs, why shouldn’t we offer the elderly in a vegetative state the same?”
Human life is sacred throughout life and in all circumstances, whether one is strong, independent and healthy or weak, dependent and handicapped.
When we reduce human beings to animals, it logically follows that a whole range of horrendous evils could eventuate. God has forbidden that any life be murdered. There is no need for a commandment that says, “You shall not commit euthanasia.” All deliberate, premeditated killing (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, homicide–war raises some other issues) is covered by the one commandment, “You shall not murder.”
Another reason for opposing euthanasia is because the Scriptures are clear that “just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NET) the time of dying can be a critical time for people to prepare to meet their Maker. Eternal life and death decisions can be made in the “valley of the shadow of death.” We dare not take this from people.
Death is an unnatural intrusion into human existence, caused by sin. We must reject any secular philosophies that want to see death and dying as a natural transition to either non-existence or a higher stage of existence.
In sickness or in health, from the womb to old age and even through the dying process, life is sacred. In a depraved society that is choosing death and violence, Christians need to be shining lights in a world of darkness. We must choose life for ourselves and others. We must love our neighbours and offer them the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
While I reject “the end justifies the means” view of morality, we do reap what we sow. The clear biblical principle is that there are consequences to our actions. Australia already has innocent blood on its hands through the abortion slaughter. What will we reap if we legislate voluntary, active euthanasia? The harvest of a permissive approach to euthanasia is known from recent history and contemporary experience.
In Australia, “support for voluntary euthanasia is on the increase in Australia, with a new survey showing 85 per cent of the country is in favour of it,” according to The Australian newspaper. Another report stated:
EIGHT out of 10 Australians believe the terminally ill should have a right to choose a medically assisted death, according to a new poll out today. The Newspoll research, conducted in February, found 80 per cent of adults surveyed supported the terminally ill’s right to voluntary euthanasia.
Just 14 per cent were opposed and 6 per cent were undecided. The results have renewed calls for further debate.
“I would call on the Victorian Government to permit passage of a private member’s Bill for voluntary euthanasia through Parliament,” Dying With Dignity Victoria incoming president Neil Francis said.
However, public opinion should never dictate what is right or wrong.
Euthanasia puts a death wedge between the doctor and patient. It debases the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor-patient relationship.
I believe the superior options are to promote life, offer opportunity for eternal life, and become actively involved in care for the dying, persons who are handicapped, and other sufferers in our society. This care should involve doctors, nurses, clergy, counsellors and others who simply know how to care.
We need to improve the standards of care for dying patients, offering medical relief for severe pain, giving emotional support and careful communication. The hospice movement is to be commended for its compassionate care of the dying. Such facilities with concerned staff are urgently needed.
At a time when there is every reason to offer caring, compassionate palliative care to the terminally ill, those promoting euthanasia want to eliminate the sufferer rather than eliminate the suffering.
Any society that engages in the killing of innocent life will pay a grave price. When we do not respect life before birth, if affects our view of life after birth. If we do not respect the dying, it will affect our attitude towards the living. As the Bible puts it: “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Romans 14:7).
Life and death decisions belong to the Almighty God Englishman David Potter, father of a child with handicaps and director of the charity, Christian Concern for the Mentally Handicapped, put it this way: “For euthanasia to receive the support of law, it would make crime respectable and compassion despicable. Our feeble, synthetic way of life would degenerate further into a pit of our own making where values are valueless, love is loveless and life is hopeless.”
Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor imprisoned by the Nazis during World War 2 summed up the need to take action:
“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
In this madness at the beginning of the twenty-first century, will you join me in affirming that people are special and human life is worthwhile to human beings and to God? The challenge is to stand up for the young and old, unborn and born, handicapped and fit, and all people of all races.
Voluntary Assisted Death (VAD)
(Hebrews 9:27, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” NIV)
 “In 1996, the Australian house of Representatives voted to overturn the Northern Territory Euthanasia Legislation. The Senate confirmed this action in 1997. As well, every major Government inquiry around the world in recent years has strongly recommended against legalising euthanasia (Canada 1982, Victoria 1987, Great Britain 1994, New York State 1994)” (Queensland Right to Life, “Euthanasia: What does it really mean?” available at: http://www.qrtl.org.au/Euth%20Meaning.htm[Accessed 2 January 2010]. This link was not functioning on 24 June 2015 and the information could no longer be located online or on Queensland Cherish Life (new name of Right to Life) website.
 Dr. Richard Chaney, “Euthanasia and the Duty of Care,” 11 May 2001, Doctors’ Reform Society, available at: http://www.drs.org.au/articles/2001/art12.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].
 Pro-Life Victoria. Available at: http://www.prolife.org.au/articles/articles_euthanasia_19.php (Accessed 24 June 2015).
 See Dr Gunning’s article, “Why not euthanasia?” available at: http://www.chninternational.com/Gunning%202006.html (Accessed 24 June 2015).
 “85 percent support voluntary euthanasia – poll,” The Australian, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/per-cent-support-voluntary-euthanasia-poll/story-fn3dxiwe-1225791455181 [Accessed 2 January 2010].
 Derek Humphry, Founder of Hemlock Society, Assisted Suicide Blog, “Huge support for euthanasia in Australia,” 4 March 2007, available at: http://assistedsuicide.org/blog/2007/03/04/huge-support-for-euthanasia-in-australia/ [Accessed 2 January 2010].
 Cited in The National WWII Museum, available at: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-teachers/lesson-plans/pdfs/when-they-came-for-me.pdf (Accessed 24 June 2015).
Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at date: 17 September 2021.