Euthanasia literally means “good death”. Nowadays, it refers to the active termination of life of a terminally ill patient by a physician. The physician may also provide a lethal drug that the patient takes himself. This is called assisted suicide. Euthanasia or assisted suicide is prohibited in most countries. Only in the Benelux, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand and parts of Australia is it permitted under conditions. These conditions are very strict.
For example, in the Netherlands the patient must have thought about it carefully and must have independently concluded his desire for death by this course without any external pressure. There must be hopeless and unbearable suffering, and this situation must have been discussed with the patient. Whether there is any other reasonable solution to the suffering must also have been investigated. A second opinion is always obtained and the medical execution must be done carefully. Despite these restrictive conditions, euthanasia in the Netherlands is ever increasing. There is now even a proposal to legalize euthanasia for children under 12 years old.
What is death?
Christians generally have strongly opposed the normalization of euthanasia. This is because of the Christian view of life and death. In the Bible, God reveals himself as the Living One, who created and sustains all life (Genesis 1). When God takes away His life-giving Spirit, we die (Psalm 104:29-30). Death is a direct result of Adam’s sin, as described in Genesis 2-3. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Through one man sin came into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned, so Paul writes in Romans 5:12.
Dying, then, is not something natural and neutral, but something terrible. Death is our enemy that will be removed by God in the future. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Every living being resists death with all that is in him. Every human being wants to live. Only severe psychological or physical suffering can lead a person to suicide. And even then, that person does not wish for death itself, but only an end to the suffering.
Are we allowed to take our own life?
When God gives us life, we then should cherish and maintain that life. When God takes life away, we must step back and acknowledge our impotence and vulnerability. However, this is difficult to digest in modern times, where autonomy has become very important. We as modern people like to maintain control of our lives. We think that we should be able to make our own decisions about our lives. The extreme consequence of this view is that we may therefore, if necessary, also decide for ourselves when our life ends. A Christian, however, cannot accept this line of thinking. He trusts God in life and death, and he knows that God has determined his time (Psalm 31:14-15). Life is sacred, so we are not allowed to end it actively. Not with others and not with ourselves.
Does life have intrinsic value?
In addition to this fundamental objection, there is also a practical one. We observed that the boundaries of euthanasia and end-of-life are slowly shifting. Although people in the patient’s environment are not allowed to influence the decision, there is a great risk that patients or old people will see themselves as a burden. Life then no longer has intrinsic value, but this value is made dependent on the quality of life. Consequently, old and disabled people may therefore be regarded as undesirable persons. According to the Christian faith, however, every person is valuable because everyone is created in God’s image, regardless of whether he is sick or healthy, regardless of whether he is old or young.
A living hope
God is the Living One. He has conquered death because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Jesus Christ preceded His church in His resurrection: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus experienced unimaginably severe suffering and therefore He can have compassion with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Our suffering can be so desperate and severe that any human explanation or comfort falls short. All that then remains is the faithful expectation of a hopeful future perspective, because Jesus saves us from death and gives us life: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).