Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How Should We Think About the Brittany Maynard’s Assisted Suicide and the “Right to Die” issue?

On November 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old women terminally ill from brain cancer, chose to end her life. My heart goes out to her family as they grieve this devastating loss. Her death has sparked a national debate on the right of terminally ill patience’s to seek medical means to end their lives early. Brittany made her choice to die a public issue in order to leave a legacy behind, since she had no children. 

First off, if you are going to submit yourself to the idea of killing yourself to avoid suffering, then you must fully believe that suffering is meaningless. Let me remind you what we are instructed by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-13 which reads:

“12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.”

The Bible makes it clear that suffering is a part of God’s plan for everyone’s life. Many times sufferings are what God uses to draw people to Himself. God does not ordain suffering in the world or in people for no reason. Suppose that Brittany had taken treatments for her cancer and met a follower of Jesus Christ, who shared the gospel with her and encouraged her in a place that only they could understand. 

Suffering is not pointless, there are lessons to be learned by the person in the sick bed, and by those who are their caretakers. We need to do all things to the glory of God, which includes dying a hard, death full of suffering. We should not seek to short circuit God’s plan for our lives, especially the end!

As I think through this I am reminded of two deaths from the Old Testament, King Saul vs. King David. King Saul had his issues, he hid on his promotion day, prophesied for the Lord, was plagued by an evil spirit, killed priests of the Lord, and sought help from a witch to call Samuel back from the dead. At the end of his life in 1 Chronicles 10, he would rather die in his delusions about who he is than face reality as a king, so Saul throws himself on his sword and kills himself.

On the other hand, King David, a murder and adulterer, was willing to repent of his sins. King David is found withering away on a death bed in 1 Kings 1, and I would argue that this is God’s mercy to David. David is reminded in his old age and sickness of his frailty and dependence on God.

This debate scares me as a pastor. It starts to question “quality” of life. As one wise author once said, “quality is meeting expectations”. If that is true, the question should be asked, “What is your expectations for your life?” Someone may have a “quality of life” on a deathbed that could never be learned in a healthy body, through learning to be more like Christ in suffering. Brittany’s very public death opens a Pandora’s Box on who should live and who should die. Who should decide what the expectations of life are other than God?

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