Surprising Responses to Euthanasia Bill

The ABC (20 October 2017) reports that Victoria’s controversial voluntary euthanasia legislation was passed in the Lower House of Parliament 47 votes to 37.  The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill will now go to the Upper House.

The ABC states: “In most cases — estimated to be about 150 a year — the lethal dose would be self-administered. But in some cases where patients cannot administer the drug, doctors could be involved. … Polling has consistently shown widespread support for euthanasia for the terminally ill, including last year’s ABC Vote Compass, which found three out of four Australians backed the idea.”

In an article published by the Sydney Morning Herald (19 Oct 2017) Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia strongly opposes the legislation. The following quotes are taken from his article “No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human.

In both practical and moral terms, it is misleading to think allowing people to terminate their life is without consequence for the entire society. Too much of the Victorian debate has been about the details and conditions under which people can be terminated and too little about the golden principles that would be abandoned by our legislature.

Once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be. Few people familiar with our politics would doubt that pressure would mount for further liberalisation based on the demand that people are being discriminated against if denied. The experience of overseas jurisdictions suggests the pressures for further liberalisation are irresistible.”

Mr Keating adds that the Australian Medical Association is opposed to acts that “have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life”. AMA president Dr Gannon recently said: ‘Once you legislate this you cross the Rubicon. The cause for euthanasia has been made in a very emotional way and this is the latest expression of individual autonomy as an underlying principle. But the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and the dying must never be made to feel they are a burden.’”

These are valuable thoughts. However Mr Keating misses a vital point. He says “Opposition to this bill is not about religion. It is about the civilisational ethic that should be at the heart of our secular society.”

At bottom opposition to euthanasia is about faith. Euthanasia is a euphemism for murder or suicide; it’s a human act to end human life. Therefore the most important question is: who owns life? Most in society will say: we own our lives so we can decide what to do with it.

The Bible however teaches that God owns our lives, therefore only God is entitled to give and take life. The Heidelberg Catechism summarises it neatly: “I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ” (Lord’s Day 1). Job also understood this. When he received news about the sudden death of His children he said “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). This is the basis of the sanctity of life.

Augustine on suicide
Augustine wrote a remarkable passage about suicide in “The City of God” (Book 1 chapter 19-27). In it he tells a true story about a noble woman named Lucretia. She lived in ancient Rome and had been violated by King Tarquin’s son. She was so ashamed by this outrage, felt so defiled that she committed suicide. Augustine gives a wonderful analysis of this deed. Lucretia, he says, was innocent of any wrong doing; she was not a criminal and certainly did nothing to deserve death. However, she was killed. A murderer ended her life. The murderer was the same person, Lucretia. Lucretia acted as two persons. One was innocent, the other a murderer.

Augustine concludes: “Christians Have No Authority for Committing Suicide in Any Circumstances whatever. … In no passage of the holy canonical books there can be found either divine precept or permission to take away our own life, whether for the sake of entering on the enjoyment of immortality, or of shunning, or ridding ourselves of anything whatever…. Nay, the law, rightly interpreted, even prohibits suicide, where it says, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ ” He adds that you cannot therefore kill neither another person nor yourself, for he who kills himself still kills someone.

God’s time is the very best time
J S Bach wrote a Cantata for a funeral, most probably his uncle’s. It is a very moving and most beautiful Cantata called God’s time is the very best time (BWV 106). It highlights the comfort of Scripture when confronted with death, even when it is delayed, because our merciful and wise God knows the best time to call us to Himself. The following is taken from the Cantata:

God’s time is the best of all times.
In Him we live, move and are, as long as He wills.
In Him we die at the appointed time, when He wills (Acts 17:28).

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

I have brought my affairs home to God,
He does with me as it pleases Him,
if I should live yet longer here,
I shall not struggle against it;
rather I do His will with total devotion.

With peace and joy I depart in God’s will,
My heart and mind are comforted, calm, and quiet.
As God had promised me: death has become my sleep.

(translation by Pamela Dellal )

When we are faced with severe suffering and terminal illness, we must remain convinced that God sees; He is compassionate and knows the exact right moment to call us to himself. He is so much wiser than we are as Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s time is the very best time. Therefore we will never take life into our own hands.