Dying with Dignity

Megan Best, BMed (Hons), MAAE

Sadly, promotion of assisted death often has its origins in a personal tragedy. Many of those who lobby most strongly for a change in the law have experienced the difficult passing of a loved one. While services such as palliative care and hospice can do much to relieve the distress dying people experience, many still do not have access to it. We must do better.

There is much debate surrounding the passage of these bills, but it is lacking needed balance. In what follows, I offer a summary and response to common arguments in favor of physician-assisted suicide and address the oft-neglected case against bills in support of the practice.

The Hope and Hype of Medicine and Technology

Susan M. Haack, MD, MA, MDiv, FACOG

Hope is a powerfully propelling attitude that confidently anticipates positive outcomes for the circumstances of one’s life or events in the world. As noted in a previous forum (“Taking and Keeping vs. Receiving and Giving: A Kingdom Framework for Evaluating Contemporary Issues in Medicine, Technology, and Life”), hope can spring from different sources: from the finite and fallible or from God and His promises. For many, as in the quote above, hope is more than a passive attitude; it is an active pursuit that consists of a goal, a pathway to that goal, and agency—the belief that one can instigate change and achieve the goal.[2]

Death and the Church

Robert C. Kurka, DMin

In his recent ETS presidential address, Talbot’s bioethics professor Scott Rae made the following observation:

A final area in which I would suggest our churches are undereducated is the end of life. . . . Though we preach regularly about resurrection and eternity, I rarely hear any application of those biblical principles on death, dying, and eternity applied to how we should approach the end of life as patients and family members.[1]

Obviously, while death and dying are not near the top of anyone’s favorite Sunday sermon topics, Rae’s comments remind us that a faithful reading of Scripture includes these dark realities. In a more positive light, Dr. Rae reminds us that no one is better at navigating death than biblically grounded Christians.

Future Resurrection and the Right to Die: Using Strong Theology in Response to Shifting Societal Values

Joel Pacyna, MA, MA (Bioethics)

Efforts to legalize physician aid-in-dying (PAD) are slowly gaining traction in state legislatures.[1] This traction is due, in large part, to the increasingly broad appeal of mantras like “compassion and choices” and the “right to die.” This rhetoric is frustrating, to say the least. “Compassion” and “rights” are meaningful Christian virtues that have been misused by proponents of PAD to legitimize something the church has historically rejected as immoral.[2]

However, if Christian leaders articulate only frustration at the manipulative rhetoric of proponents of PAD, is that sufficient pastoral engagement of the issue? Will it equip believers to see through the rhetorical appeals to “values” and “virtues” in arguments for PAD? In times of vulnerability, will our church members share our pastoral distaste for rhetorical impropriety, and will that distaste effectively disarm the rhetorical appeal of “compassion” in the face of terminal illness?