Saturday, 7 February 2015

Canada's Supreme Court Unanimously Supports Doctor Assisted Suicide

You can read reports about the Supreme Court decision at the Globe and Mail, and the National Post.  In their ruling the judges have said that the decision is limited to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”  They have also pointed out that the condition need not be terminal, and that the suffering may be either physical or psychological.  Those are the conditions they have imposed...for now.

I believe this is a slippery slope decision.  I believe it is only a matter of time before physicians, family members, and others will begin "assisting" people in making the decision toward "assisted suicide" who may not have made it on their own.  I believe that all too soon we will hear of parents deciding for their disabled or unhealthy children, grown children deciding for or coercing their aged or infirm parents, or some physicians leading patients who would not have gone this direction otherwise to choose this as the right option rather than remaining a burden on a society with limited resources.  I believe that we will see people who are otherwise healthy but who are in the midst of a time of depression or in difficult life circumstances demanding these same rights in the near future.  In fact, I believe that before my kids are my age, we will see people who have no discernible physical or psychological ailments demanding "the same rights" to manage their existence as do sick people.  Why do I think this decision will lead to that?  Because people are involved and people are sinful.  The nature of sin is to continue in a downward rebellious march away from God until all authority has been wrested from God and we have raised ourselves up to the place of ultimate and total authority in his place.  A sinful heart is never satisfied with limited rebellion.  But it is not just the slippery slope and where this could, or rather will, lead that makes this decision wrong.  This decision is already wrong as it stands.

Anytime people take for themselves prerogatives that are God's, like deciding what constitutes a life worth living, or when life ought to end, or what lives ought not to make it past a few days, weeks, or months in the womb, it is a form of rebellion against the God who gives life to all.  It is God who breathes into people the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand."  (Deut. 32:39)

We are not autonomous.  We are not an authority unto ourselves.  We are not the gods and lords of our own lives.  We are not vested with the authority to choose who ought to be born, nor are we given the authority to pick when we die.  God made every person and because he created all people, each person owes allegiance to him and must submit to his rule.  But of course this ruling by the courts to allow people to choose when they die is simply the logical outworking of a people and culture and society which has long ago rejected the authority of God in exchange for the lie that "you will become like God."  As a society, we have rejected the truth that God is the creator of all life, and so it logically follows that his Word should have no authority to define how life ought to be lived. 

Every human being is made in God's image.  As Francis Schaeffer said, "Any person, no matter who he or she is - a stranger or a friend, a fellow believer or someone who is still in rebellion against God, anyone of any age, before or after birth - any and every person is made after the likeness of God."  (Whatever Happened to the Human Race, p. 158). Every human life has value simply because every human bears God's image.  Some will argue, and the courts have agreed, that suffering life is not really life, that at some point life becomes less than life and is no longer worth living, at least if the sufferer deems it so.  It is easy to see why people in a culture of pleasure, of self-fulfillment, of personal gratification and the pursuit of all things ME, a society of human-centredness, would believe that life is not worth living if it is not measuring up to an individual's expectations for it.  That is simply not true.

Suffering, even severe suffering, does not relegate life to some state that is sub-human or unworthy of continuing.  I want to be sensitive to people who do suffer severely, having known close family and friends who have lived in the depths of great suffering, some for very extended periods.  But even life with severe pain is still real life.  This is demonstrated in the life of Christ.  When God became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he suffered much and yet, even in the depths of his worst suffering, excruciating anguish which was both physical and psychological, he still was fully God in human flesh.  While not identical, this is analogous to created human life.  Suffering does not make human life meaningless any more than it made Christ's life meaningless.  In fact, in some sense, it takes on an extra level of meaning, often for the sufferer and those closest to them.  Perhaps when a sufferer finds their life no longer worth living, it is because the suffering has highlighted the purposelessness of their life prior to suffering, but the suffering brings that purposelessness into stark relief rather than allowing it to be hidden in the distractions we often surround ourselves with in the course of everyday life. 

For those who know God and understand their highest purpose and life calling to be to glorify him, suffering becomes simply a new context, albeit a very difficult one, in which to continue to live out that purpose. 
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  (Rev. 4:11)
But if God sends suffering to us, he also sends the strength and grace to live in it.  If we don't find we have that strength to endure, it is likely God's way of telling us that we need to turn to him.

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