Assisted suicide is when one person aids another person in ending their life, because the person ending their life chooses to do so. This act is alternatively termed voluntary euthanasia, though the semantic difference between the two terms lays in the intent of self-destruction (suicide) versus death with moral forethought and dignity (Downie 2004). It is a fine line, fraught with great moral dilemma.
Christian teachings are the foundation of deciding how Christians should conduct themselves, from minor problems to great controversies. The Holy Scripture imparts to believers that man is the creation of God, and in so being, bearing the Divine mark of grace. Indeed, the Sixth Commandment tells us "thou shalt not kill," and this proscriptive statement follows even into the medical field with the Hippocratic Oath "first do no harm" the Christian underpinnings of medical ethics calls into question those procedures that involve a health professional that indeed, do harm, and after all, do kill. Abortion is one event, assisted suicide is another event, and both demonstrate the immorality of leading a sanctified life. The sanctity of life is profound in the holy teachings; God is creation, all of creation is God.
The issue euthanasia revolves around choice and where faith in choice lays. For the faithful, choice is not in the realm of men, it is in the realm of God. To give oneself to Christ is to give up personal choice in controversial matters. In dealing with our fellow man, it is not one person's choice to either ask someone to help assist, or assist another in ending their life.
Assisted suicide violates not only the Sixth Commandment, but also violates the principle of brotherly love:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 for the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13: 8-10)
To help another person end their life, regardless of the particulars of the situation, is against Christian teachings, against God's laws, and against the principles of how people should conduct themselves with each other.
Proponents of assisted suicide state that the dignity of man is violated by having to live in pain and fear due to intolerable circumstances, such as that which would accompany end-stage cancer. The person is in obvious misery, and cannot find peace or grace in living. To live in this state is to deny the grace of God; therefore it is acceptable to end one's life at that point. Additionally, the concept of Christian Brotherhood is upheld by the caregiver in supporting their ailing fellow through achieving a dignified and painless death through euthanasia (RS Revision: Religious Studies Online 2008).
Indeed, it might be argued that it is within the scope of compassion of the Christian worldview that it is acceptable to allow one seek a painless death when their death is inevitable due to a terminal illness, and that continuation of that death would amount to cruelty. If the quality of life is so deteriorated that the only experiential events the person with terminal illness can face is one of intolerable pain and suffering, then it may serve to show them the act of Christian love and assist in fulfilling their wish to end their life in a state of grace, and not a state of cruel pain (Jordan 2003).
There are differences in the types of assisted suicide. One is active euthanasia, where the person is given some substance that is going to knowingly result in their death. The action is the administration of the death-causing substance. Another type is passive euthanasia, where drugs are given to ease pain and suffering, which may result in death. The passive action is that the drugs are not given to cause death, but to ease pain and suffering, though they may result in death. The Christian perspective is more in line with passive euthanasia, where faith in Christ is upheld, dignity among fellows is observed, and love and compassion are both given and accepted. Indeed, passive euthanasia may be acceptable under God's tenets (Cohen 1996).
However, the primary view of Christian sanctification is that life must be lived, regardless of quality. That to live life even in hard times is to build character, endurance and even hope (Romans 5: 3-4).
Life is sacred, it is divine, it is the lot of man to suffer and persevere through suffering to a divine state.
To live a Christian life of sanctification means to know God through faith in Jesus Christ and through unending and unquestioning belief in the tenets of Christianity. To conduct a sanctified life is to follow the teachings of the Scriptures. Ways in which man can come to know God are found in the rituals that sanctify one's entry into the Christian way of life. Baptism is a major avenue through which the grace of the Divine is given, and a relationship with God is established. In the Catholic tradition, the Eucharist is another rite that allows the believer to share in the spirit of the divine. Eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ is both a way of sharing in the grace of the holy, as well as honoring through remembrance the sacrifice of Christ as he prepared to do in the Last Supper. Modern day applications of the sanctified life in the Christian world view face moral questions that sometimes are not so clearly answered, even in light of the tenets of Christianity. Abortion is one example where the state of grace is denied and defiled through destruction of the life, which is given to us by God. Assisted suicide is an issue that is not so clearly defined, as the question of compassion and leading a sanctified life which include love and compassion toward others, is not always supported when it means that to do so may mean unnecessary suffering by person with a painful terminal illness. However, there are clearly a preponderance of Scriptures which support the act of living, regardless of quality or circumstances, through faith and perseverance. Living a life of sanctification necessarily entails giving up one's personal choice in the face of adversity, to the teachings of God, and abiding by those teachings.
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