Summary: The difference between turning off life support, euthanasia and suicide. We need to recognize God’s authority over life and death. Suicide and euthanasia (assisted suicide) are not compatible with Christianity though they are forgivable. We need to of
Sermon: Suicide and Euthanasia 2 Cor. 4:16-5:9 August 14, 2005
THEME: The difference between turning off life support, euthanasia and suicide. We need to recognize God’s authority over life and death. Suicide and euthanasia (assisted suicide) are not compatible with Christianity though they are forgivable. We need to offer compassion, support and love to the sick and suffering. (This sermon draws heavily upon Adam Hamilton’s book, Confronting the Controversies.)
“A child is born with a medical condition that will take her life in a matter of days. She requires a feeding tube and oxygen to survive that long—without them she will die in hours. A man has discovered that he has a debilitating disease that will result in the gradual loss of all of his physical abilities in the next three years. He will be mentally alert but trapped within a body that no longer works, unable to speak, to walk, to swallow, even to breathe. A woman discovers she has an inoperable brain tumor. She worries that she will be a burden to her husband and children as her conditions worsens. Eventually she loses all ability to care for herself and requires her family to clean her, feed her, and carry her. A teenager has lost her battle against heart disease. She slowly slips into a coma. As her heart weakens she is sustained only with the help of a respirator and other life support. Another man has been told by his physician that he has a rare form of cancer that has attached itself to his bones. No only is there no cure but the process of dying will be extremely painful.” (Adam Hamilton Confronting the Controversies, p. 65)
A young man struggles with his sexual orientation. His family and friends have rejected him. He feels the weight of society’s repulsion and condemnation. Even his church has pushed him away branding him a “condemned sinner.” In the depths of despair he hangs himself. A mother watches as her only child is tragically killed. Grief consumes her, she is unable to work or even eat. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone, she pushes her husband and friends away. The medical bills from her son’s final days begin to pour in. There is no money to pay them. In the darkness of her son’s room she swallows every last pill she could find, lays down in his bed, and dies. One month later, her husband in hopelessness takes his own life. An older man never had time for relationships, marriage or family. His job was his life, he was successful and prosperous. But now he could no longer work, he was retired. He still woke up every morning at the same time. He’d dress and then sit down read the paper and watch reruns, he had no place to go, nothing of any value to do. Soon he quit getting dressed every day and he stayed in bed more and more. He felt useless, alone and rejected. There is was no use going on, he takes a gun out from his bedside drawer, cocks back the hammer and pulls the trigger.
These are real life scenarios that happen in cities across our nation every day. You may have been fortunate enough to have avoided being confronted by them personally, but the day will come when you will be touched by a similar situation just as difficult as these. It may be a parent. It could be a friend. God forbid, but it might be a spouse or a child. It could even be you. At such a time you will need to know what you believe about death and about how we die. If you are a Christian, the most important consideration for you will be to know what God’s will is concerning how the suffering face death and what is and is not acceptable regarding our treatment of those suffering and dying. In the Christian Advocate during the Terry Schiavo story, Bishop Lindsey Davis stated, “As a culture we’re uncomfortable with death and suffering and some of these end of life issues we confront only when we have to. That’s unfortunate because our faith has much to say about living and dying.”
For United Methodist scripture, tradition, reason and experience provide us guidance and framework for all of life and death situations. Though the Bible never uses the words suicide or euthanasia which is better known as assisted suicide or mercy killing, it does provide us with incite as to God’s desire.
But before we go on let me address an issue that many of us have wrestled with, the issue of life support. Often in the course of medical treatment for grave physical crises it is necessary to use artificial means – respirators, ventilators, heart machines – to keep patients alive. Sometimes when persons are placed on life support, the days that follow reveal that the person’s condition is irreversible. Often family members agonize over the decision to withdraw life support.