Dignity Bestowed by the Maker: Euthanasia in Society

Job 1:21a states, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” This is a definite statement that gives everything to the Lord including both life and death. The Lord has gifted us this life, and He will choose when it is over. The implication here is that we are not the ones to choose when it is over. Sadly

Job 1:21a states, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” This is a definite statement that gives everything to the Lord including both life and death. The Lord has gifted us this life, and He will choose when it is over. The implication here is that we are not the ones to choose when it is over. Sadly though, euthanasia and forms of hastening death are becoming prevalent in our society.  

Euthanasia in Society

Once an unthinkable solution to suffering, euthanasia has now permeated modern culture. Euthanasia is an action done intentionally to cause the death of a patient who is suffering, such as giving a person a lethal injection. Another element of this is hastening death, which is when reasonable medical provision to preserve life is withheld or withdrawn. This is often done to skirt around euthanasia laws that prevent lethal injection.

An example of hastening death is Vincent Lambert. He was a disabled French man who was recently denied food and water from the hospital that was “caring” for him, per a French court ruling. Family members, including his wife, fought for this ruling, claiming that he was ready to die although there is no evidence to support that this is how he felt. On the other side, his parents fought for his care to be sustained. It is important to note that he was receiving food and water, not extraordinary care, like mechanical ventilation.

In France, it is illegal to euthanize a patient (as in the US), but this method of hastening death is common and used to skirt around the euthanasia laws. This disregard for the law of the land translates itself into disregard for human life and into the convenient killing of patients who would otherwise live longer, fuller lives.

Mr. Lambert’s care was primarily food and fluids via a feeding tube, since he was unable to swallow. His doctors (and certain family members) actively caused his death by withholding these basic necessities. By doing this, they decidedly and actively hastened his death.  

By denying him food and fluids he was dehydrated to death. They had to sedate him so he would not feel the effects of what this was doing to his body. Let that sink in- what they were doing was intentionally causing so much pain and suffering that they had to sedate him to be more comfortable as they waited for him to die. It is incredibly, morally wrong to knowingly subject a human being to such torture- in a place that is supposed to fight for and defend life- a hospital room! With his feeding tube, he was living a quality life. Without his feeding tube, he was subject to immense suffering- death by dehydration.

Death by dehydration is a drawn out and excruciatingly painful process. A court transcript describes it like this: “The mouth dries out, the lips and tongue crack and bleed, the lining of the nose dries out and bleeds, the skin becomes dry and scaly, urine becomes highly concentrated and burns the bladder, the stomach lining dries out causing dry heaves. The patient suffers convulsions as brain calls dry out, thick secretions plug the lungs as the respiratory track dries out. The muscle of the heart is consumed as it searches for proteins and finds it in muscle tissue. Finally, the patient dies.”

This is undoubtedly torturous. Even worse, the situation is used to the advantage of pro-euthanasia advocates as a reason to legalize lethal injections. They argue that a quick, pain-free end to life would be better than death by dehydration and use patients like Vincent as evidence of their claim. It is abhorrent that patients are being put through this suffering, to justify legalization of euthanasia.

On Thursday, July 11, Vincent Lambert died, not from natural causes, but from intentional starvation and dehydration.

To some, this story might ring a bell and remind them of Terri Schiavo. Terri was a young woman who suffered from cardiac arrest in 1990 and was soon declared to be in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents maintained that she was a devout Roman Catholic and would not wish to be denied food and fluids to hasten death, while her husband argued that she would not want to live in this state. After a battle lasting 15 years, Terri’s feeing tube was removed and she died from dehydration.

Hastening death, as in the cases of Vincent and Terri, is, blatantly stated, murder, as is euthanasia. The goal of these actions is death. Around the world though, there are numerous examples of it not being treated as such, and perpetrators going unpunished, like in the cases of Vincent and Terri.

A prime example of this is Sean Davison, a euthanasia activist who helped to end three Cape Town patients lives and the life of his mother.

After an investigation into the deaths of these individuals, he was sentenced to eight years behind bars. In reality, he is only expected to serve three years on house arrest, and is still able to go to work, church, and the doctor. It is completely unacceptable that humans are being intentionally killed and those assisting in the process are placed on minimal house arrest. It undermines every moral part of humanity to think that by prematurely bringing on death, one is bringing dignity to the individual. Furthermore, society is sending a clear message; by not appropriately punishing these offenders, culture declares that life is not valuable.

A final, particularly saddening case is of a woman from the Netherlands with advanced dementia who actively fought against her own euthanaisa, to the point that the doctor had to instruct her family to hold her down, while she was subjected to a lethal injection.

Upon further investigation into the case, it was revealed that this woman had a contradictory living will- some days she said she wanted to die, other days she stated that she wanted to live. And even more, she instructed the doctor that she wanted to undergo assisted suicide “when the time was right.”

Initially, the doctor was applauded as having “acted in good faith” in regards to her decision to euthanize the woman, but after investigation many questions were left unanswered, especially in regards to the patient’s will.

It is not hard to see why this is a blatantly wrong action. Regardless of what the woman said beforehand, she was very obviously not ready to die and did not wish for the doctor to euthanize her. She resisted against the force of her doctor and family to no avail and was killed. What about this is not murder?

All of these examples culminate in a disturbing truth- modern culture is one that promotes death by allowing members of society to kill their peers with virtually no repercussions. Our culture has decided that instead of preserving human dignity by preserving life, it is easier to dispose of individuals whose lives place a burden on those around them.

But life should never be a burden. Life should be something that is cherished and celebrated as the gift that it is. We should give thanks that modern medicine is able to preserve length and quality of life, and that God will bring about natural death when He deems ready (not when we do). As Job reminds us, God is the giver and the taker of all things, first and foremost the life he has gifted us with. It is not our place to assume His role in our lives and the lives as others. Dignity is bestowed on human beings through their Maker- a Maker that stands for Life.     

By: Amy Nardozzi, intern with Anglicans for Life

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