The facts are frightening. According to American Medical news 51 people died under Washington’s assisted-suicide law in 2010, the 1st full year of this law. They were provided with a lethal medication prescribed by a physician.
As one who lives with a chronic illness and daily chronic pain, I understand how difficult it can be to get up and face each day when every part of your body aches and no one seems to have any answers.
I also am wise enough to know that I have not experienced the kind of darkness that many have. . . yet. I have no doubt that just as many Christians go through “a dark night of the soul” as the darkest depression is described, those with illness surely have some days when they awake and wonder if it is really worth living another day and just enduring and surviving.
Here are more scary statistics
- Sixty-eight physicians wrote life-ending prescriptions for 87 patients, 51 of whom took the medication and died.
- As of February 9th, 2011, when the report was published, 15 people died of their illnesses before taking the lethal medication, and another 15 patients were still alive. For the remaining six deaths, it is unclear whether the patients ingested the medication prescribed under the law, the report said.
Let us not forget God’s faithfulness
There is always a risk of speaking of these statistics and wondering, “Will this put the idea into someone’s head to try this?” I pray that you will never consider such a thing. But if you do, seek help and hope, not quick “solutions” to end your life.
There are many times in scriptures when we are given examples of some of God’s servants who felt overwhelmed, tested, and even wished for their own death (such as 1 Kings 19:4; John 4:8). But these individuals did not take matters into their own hands and end their lives, but rather, God always rescued them. No matter how desperate things may seem, we must remember that God is faithful and when we cry out to Him he will rescue us.
As people with chronic illness who know physical pain. . . and also the Lord, we must be aware that there are people who may not know Jesus, but who are taking their own lives to avoid living on this earth another day.
The physician-assisted suicide total represents a 42% increase. In Oregon (where the law has been in place since 1998 and the only other state with a law authorizing physician-assisted suicide), 65 patients died last year after taking life-ending medication prescribed by their doctors.
In all, 612 patients have died with physicians’ help under Oregon’s and Washington’s assisted-suicide laws.
Do you ever have nothing left to give?
Reports state that the vast majority of patients using the law were white, well-educated, insured, dying of cancer, receiving hospice care and most concerned about loss of autonomy, dignity and joy in living.
I remember when my grandfather was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease and my grandmother basically couldn’t see the need for him to still be here on earth. I looked her firmly in the eye and said something to the effect of, “Grandma, he may not even know what is going on, but he is joyful. Every day, every single person that comes into his room has their day brightened by his joy. They love him. You don’t know what those people may have been going through. A nurse could have been beaten by her spouse last night; an attendant may be losing his own father to this disease but he lives across the country and can’t be with him. Grandpa may be the only person in their life who makes them smile. You don’t know how God is still using him.”
I am not certain she understood. But even as I said the words, I realized just how true they were.
What does the Christian community think of these suicide-assisted laws?
Robert D. Orr, MD, CM, Professor of Medical Ethics and Christian Medical Dental Association (CMDA) Board of Trustees says,
“When a legislative sea-change such as state sanctioned physician-assisted suicide is introduced in a jurisdiction, citizens and physicians take early cautious steps into new and scary territory. As they realize that intentionally causing death does not result in public condemnation, and that oversight is minimal, they relax; they become less apprehensive and less cautious. And the (minimal) data that is made available to the public reflects this slide into societal acceptance.”
The number of individuals in Oregon who took their own lives with help from physicians more than tripled from 1999 to 2009. With a 70% larger population base, Washington’s anticipated data swell should cause major concerns. But it probably won’t. As Francis Schaeffer warned about public sentiment in the post-Christian era, ‘The unthinkable becomes thinkable.’
Orr asks, “What should be the response of those who recognize the image of God in each person? We should be advocating for and involved in providing excellent palliative care, and we should voice our opposition to extension of physician-assisted suicide into other states.”
I say, “Yes! We should voice our opposition to extension of physician-assisted suicide into other states.” I may not be standing down on the courthouse steps today, but I am asking you to join me in being aware of just how much you impact the lives of those around you.
You do make a difference. God is not done with you yet
There will be some dark days. Yes, the Lord says in this lifetime we will see trouble. But we, the chronically ill who are believers in Jesus Christ, are also examples of people who may not be “successful” in the eyes of our secular, materialistic world, but we are worthy in His sight–and that is all that matters. Though we may not even be able to leave our bed or our home, we are connected, we are encouraging others, we are witnesses that even when we are stuck in a hospital bed, we are still a representative of our Lord.
Someone asked me last week if thinking about suicide from time to time was a normal part of living with chronic illness. She said she would never even consider it, but her doctor thought she was very weird for even thinking of it. We should not hide from words like suicide and pretend that a “real Christian” would never have these thoughts.
Instead, we must face that, yes, there are many times we will dream of heaven, we may want to stop the pain, we begin to wonder if our family’s lives would be easier without us. But God is not finished with you yet. Only He should be in control of your last breath.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she encourages you to never stop seeking God, even when you do not see His presence or hear His voice. He promises He will never leave you or forsake you and she believes that to be true, regardless of how our emotions may tell us otherwise sometimes.
Note: An article on Physician-Assisted Suicide from Dr. Robert Orr will be published in the 2011 Summer edition of Today’s Christian Doctor with a special tear-out section on Theory vs. Practice.
CMDA also shares about this book:
Basic Questions on Suicide and Euthanasia
Many in our society champion assisted suicide and euthanasia as answers to intractable physical and emotional problems. There are alternatives to this contemporary “culture of death,” however, that uphold the sanctity of human life and seek to meet the problems of fear, pain, and despair with compassion and dignity. Questions such as “How do active and passive euthanasia differ?”; “Do I have a ‘right to die’?”‘ “Is suicide the unpardonable sin?”; “Why hasn’t Dr. Kovorkian been convicted of a crime?” and many more are answered in this informative piece.
Paperback. 80 pages. Price: $4.00