When it comes to dying, all of us hope to die well. The question is, what does this mean and what does this look like?
The word euthanasia means ‘a good death’ and, for some, this is what ‘dying well’ looks like. Euthanasia advocacy groups sometimes refer to euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide as ‘dying with dignity’. The premise behind this thinking seems to be that to die well is to die on our terms, how we want and when we want.
The Christian tradition, however, has a very different understanding of what it is to die well.
A good death is not one on our own terms, but one which submits itself to God’s will. To die well for the Christian is to die with faith in Christ, and thus to die in the grace of God.
The Bible speaks of the ‘fear of death which subjects us to a lifelong slavery’ (Hebrews 2:15). This fear leads us to try to assert ourselves in the face of death by taking matters into our own hands. However, as Christ has died in our place to give us eternal life, we need not fear death and we can die well as we trust in him.
Healthy people have no need for legal options to end their life. But what about people whose suffering feels intolerable? Some people in western societies have begun advocating for the legal taking of life in these circumstances through physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Christians are called to show mercy and compassion to those who are suffering. True mercy and compassion mean suffering alongside someone in their greatest hour of need, loving and serving them and assuring them that life is still worth living, even when all seems lost.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan provides us with a beautiful example of this mercy. True mercy costs us something (Luke 10:25–37).
The LCANZ opposes euthanasia and mercy killing in all forms, based on Scripture.
For Christians, our life is never our own. We are creatures owing our very existence to our creator, and so the taking of our own life is no less grave than that of another.
However, the church’s opposition to euthanasia does not mean that Christians are obligated to unnecessarily prolong life by taking on burdensome treatments.
What it does mean is that the church’s members have a special obligation to love and care for people who are suffering, including advocating for the best possible palliative care.
This is an abridged version of ‘Dying well’ and ‘Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide’, by the Lutherans for Life (LFL) Committee, published on its website and used with permission. LFL is part of the LCANZ, accountable to the church through the Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions. LFL offers resources and information on life issues on its website, through its newsletter, Life News, and on Facebook (Lutherans for Life – Australia).