Pain and Euthanasia

A recent article on  WAtoday is quite revealing about the strength of one of the tools we have to oppose the push for “euthanasia”  and presents additional perspectives in our struggle against this culture of death.

It is the story of a 104 year old prominent Perth academic, Dr. Goodall, planning to travel to Switzerland to end his life through voluntary euthanasia, and will be aided in this by Exit International.  Dr. Goodall does not have a painful terminal illness, but is concerned about the deteriorating quality of his life. The director of Exit International, Dr Nitschke, commented that it is Dr. Goodall’s suffering that is the concern.  According to him, if people have a right to life, then they also have a right to dispose of it, rather than have to deal with the suffering that comes as one’s quality of life deteriorates.

Often people who promote euthanasia use the pain argument. “It is terribly heartless to let someone experience excruciating pain, when they are only going to die anyway.  Why not let them take control and help them end their life before the pain becomes unbearable.  You would put an animal down in such a situation, why can’t the same be done for humans?”  This appears to be a powerful argument, and when you oppose it, you are easily made to feel heartless.   But don’t get bowled over by this argument.  Consider the following concession in the same article about Dr. Goodall.  Andrew Denton, an influential TV personality and euthanasia advocate, makes the case that increasing resources for palliative care would not remove the need for voluntary euthanasia, arguing that there is a difference between pain and suffering:  “Pain can, in most cases be dealt with.  But suffering, which is multi-faceted and at many levels is the heart of the matter.”

That is a big concession.  “Pain can in most cases be dealt with.”  Thus when you oppose euthanasia, you should not be intimidated by the response that you are forcing lots of people to die in excruciating pain.  Even the advocates for euthanasia acknowledge that pain can in most cases be dealt with.  This is why we should also, in our struggle against euthanasia, encourage investment into and the allocations of resources for good palliative care.  It does make a difference.

But there is also the other side of what Denton said, namely, that the suffering is the heart of the matter, and it is a suffering that is many faceted.  It is a suffering that comes from not seeing the purpose of your life, refusing to acknowledge that it is a gift from God, where every breath is to be used for His praise.

“While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” Psalm 146:2

It is a suffering that comes from not believing that God numbers your days, that His time is the right time, and learning to be content and thankful for that.

“In your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”  Psalm 139:16b

It is a suffering that comes from feeling and being told that you are a burden to society or family.  Not having the support of a loving family and community who willingly and gladly help you will also add to the suffering.  This should awaken compassion in us for our fellow man, whose biggest problem is not the pain that sometimes comes with a terminal illness or advanced age, but the suffering and misery that comes when people live in rebellion against God.  Yes, the approach of death is an increasingly ugly thing in a society that has rejected God, and also experiences the curse of God. Let us be faithful witness of Jesus Christ and the hope that He gives, so that our fellow man, whether enjoying flourishing health or drawing near to death, may see and confess his deepest need, and turn to the one who will one day remove all the pain and tears of those who have repented and trust in Him.