A 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard, suffering from an aggressive brain tumor, died this past Saturday.
But not from the tumor.
She took her own life in the name of "death with dignity."
It became national news because she had taken to social media to announce her decision to take her life. She even landed on the cover of People Magazine. Collectively, it brought the issue of "right to die" to the forefront of public conversation.
The Bible is very clear about the taking of a human life. In Exodus 20:13, in the sixth of the Ten Commandments, God says, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13, NIV).
The key word there is "murder."
Murder is the deliberate, willful, pre-meditated taking of a human life out of hatred, anger, greed, or self-centered convenience. The sixth commandment is not talking about the killing that takes place in war, in self-defense, or even in capital punishment. Those are important discussions, but they're not the focus of the sixth commandment.
And the sixth commandment doesn't speak to the killing of other creatures - such as animals,
…but of human beings.
The reason is simple - it's because life is sacred. Not just some lives, but every life. The fact that each and every one of us was created in the image of God gives each and every one of us infinite worth and value. Taking it upon ourselves to end a life is the ultimate act of defiance against God, for life is His and His alone to give and take.
It doesn't matter what the quality of life is for that person. It doesn't matter what the cost of their life will be to society. It doesn't matter how productive they are, smart they are, beautiful they are. It doesn't matter whether we like them or not.
All human beings have infinite worth because they are made in the image of God. And the taking of a life - any life - is showing contempt for God and His image. Life is sacred. It is not ours to do with as we please.
Only God can end it or direct its ending.
Euthanasia is the practice of assisting or enabling death, usually because the person is old, in pain, or terminally ill. The word "euthanasia" is from two Greek words, "eu", which means good, and "thanatos," which means death.
So the word literally means "good death."
And those who support euthanasia use terms carrying that sentiment, such as "mercy killing" and "death with dignity." The rationale is that individuals or family members have the right to end their own or someone else's life if they feel it seems unbearable.
There are two kinds of euthanasia – passive, and active.
Passive euthanasia is when the individual or family members decide not to use extraordinary means to extend the process of dying when there is no hope for extending life.
Very few Christian ethicists would challenge that choice. They would add, however, that food and water are not extraordinary efforts. That is basic to anyone living.
The real issue is active euthanasia, which is the direct killing of a patient because a disease may be terminal, or the choice to withhold basic assistance that would prolong life in a substantive way,
...simply to avoid pain or difficulty.
The more direct term is assisted suicide.
And it is every bit as much the taking of a human life as any other form, because it's not our life to take, or our decision to make.
Compassion can be poured out on people who are suffering, and we can and should stand with them, pray for them, and encourage them to take advantage of everything that is available in terms of pain management and hospice care,...
...but the taking of a life, for the sake of the quality of life, is against the sanctity of life.
So while ending our life on "our" terms sounds like a statement of personal rights that should be embraced, it's not.
It's playing God with our own lives.
And we're not God.
James Emery White
"Brittany Maynard, face of right-to-die movement, died as she planned," Cathy Lynn Grossman and Jessica Durando, Religion News Service, November 2, 2014, read online.
"Joni Eareckson Tada to Brittany Maynard: God alone chooses the day you die, not you," Joni Eareckson Tada, Religion News Service, October 15, 2014, read online.