Euthanasia

Readings for this week August 3 – 7
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Euthanasia

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 3:5-6

This year on election day, as well as casting their votes in the general election, voters will be asked to give their opinion on two referenda, one of which is the End of Life Choice Act. The Act was passed by parliament late last year and it has been sent to a referendum to see whether it becomes law. (The other referendum is about the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill.) The End of Life Choice Act defines assisted dying (euthanasia) as the process whereby a doctor or nurse gives a person medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death, or, alternatively the taking of medication by a person to relieve their own suffering by bringing on death. In the Act, “medication” is defined as a lethal dose of the drugs in question being specifically used for assisted dying.

The question being asked in the referendum is: “Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?” Voters can choose one of two answers:

Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.

“Coming into force” means that if a majority of New Zealanders vote in favour of the Act then the Act will become law in New Zealand 12 months after the announcement of the final result.

Questions to Consider
How much do you know about the forthcoming End of Life Act referendum? What is your opinion on euthanasia? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, guide us in being your people, so that we may guide, support and walk with others in our community in the same way that you did when you walked and lived among us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Alternatives

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:12

Deliberately ending a life is not the only reaction to suffering available to us.  In situations where recovery is no longer possible and death is the imminent outcome, there are other ways that tend to allow nature to take a (managed) course. Firstly, there is the right to refuse treatment, a right already enshrined in law. As long as an adult has the capacity to understand the situation they are in and can therefore make an informed decision about it, they can refuse treatment. This is often an option for those who realise their course of treatment is simply delaying the inevitable. As well as this, there are certain courses of treatment available, such as morphine, that while still alleviating pain do not actually cause death, and can certainly contribute to hastening it. Neither of these options constitute euthanasia.

A second alternative is palliative care. This is when specialist medical staff look after and care for the terminally ill, usually in a hospice, and usually through the final stages of the person’s illness. The use of painkilling medication ensures that the person does not suffer any more than is absolutely necessary. As well as the medical issues, the hospice staff are also trained to talk with the patients about death and dying and the end of life process and discuss any fears the patient may have – support also offered to the family of the dying person. There have been huge advances in the nature of palliative care in the last decade.

Question to Consider
How can the people of God genuinely work to offer these alternatives?

Prayer
Lord God, we come before you as broken and imperfect people striving to be your Spirit-led community, working to be a beacon of hope in a world crying out for love and understanding. Teach us grace and humility and love. Show us how to give more of ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – We Are God’s

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 100:3

We are, whether we acknowledge it or not, first and foremost God’s. We belong to him. Our lives and our world, our very creatureliness, are a gift from him, and as such he has first claim on us. Whatever autonomy we have – and we have been given a certain degree of autonomy; that is part of what being both a creature and servant of God entails – has been given to us by God. It is not something that we have made for ourselves, or generated by our own individual efforts. And the choice and power that we have been given were never meant to be exercised independently of others. There is a communal element to who we are and how we are to live. The post-Enlightenment elevation of the solitary, autonomous individual to be its own ultimate authority has seen us forget the basic fact that much of our identity comes from others, and is given in community.

So much sin and pain and dysfunction originates from our inability to remain within the God-given boundaries that lead to the flourishing of life and love. Too much has been lost, twisted or destroyed by our desire to be our own gods and to be sole dictators of our lives – and the lives of others. Our autonomy has limits. We may not like this, and many of us hate to admit it, but as human beings there will always be other claims on us, whether from family, friends, or community. No one is completely isolated and immune from them. And followers of Jesus acknowledge that the ultimate claim upon us, ahead of all others, is God’s.

Question to Consider
Why is autonomy and control such a key aspect of the euthanasia debate, especially for those in favour of euthanasia?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help us not to try and be you but to strive to be like you; to be imitators of Jesus; to reflect your remade and restored image in us back to you and to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Why Does a Good God Allow….?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 5:10

One of the greatest stumbling blocks preventing people believing in God – or in a good God – is the reality of pain and suffering. If God is so good, why does so much of this life hurt so badly? This is also one of the main reasons put forward by proponents of euthanasia: it promises an end to people’s pain and suffering. Death is seen as a release from suffering that can, and should, be brought forward in the best interests of the sufferer. No one wants to see others suffer; no one wants to watch a loved one live in terrible pain. So it is proposed euthanasia should be an option in these circumstances.

If we are honest, as followers of Jesus we should acknowledge that this is a hard argument to counter, as doing so can make us look like cold, hard uncaring people indifferent to others’ pain, and also because it makes us look like we are trying to defeat an argument rather than deeply and genuinely engage with people’s situations. Often in the past, we have not done this well. Christians have sometimes said some dumb, unhelpful, hurtful things about suffering and to people suffering in particular. But the point does need to be raised that just like pain, suffering is subjective. One person’s pain is another’s discomfort, and trying to turn one particular definition or instance of suffering into a universal definition to be applied to all people in all times in all cases simply does not work. If one instance or definition of suffering is elevated into a ‘right’ to die, it will seek to become a right for all and the individual significance of each instance and each life is lost as a result.

Questions to Consider
What is suffering? Why does it exist? What is God’s remedy for it?

Prayer
Loving Lord, may the unknown, unfathomable, unwanted provenance of suffering not blind us to the hope that is to be found in your answer to the problem of pain that we find in the cross of Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Suffering For, Suffering With

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 1:3

Causing or inflicting suffering is not in the nature of God. Creating suffering in us or in others in not his way. Taking the suffering and hurt of others upon himself is his way. Good can come out of suffering – there is no situation or event or circumstance that God cannot redeem and rescue and bring to good – but he does not inflict suffering in order to bring this about. The pain and anguish that arise in this rebellious, broken, wayward world are contrary to God’s will; the loving, sacrificial, all-embracing scope of the solution of the cross is entirely illustrative of God’s character.

If we follow Jesus closely and take seriously his call to follow him and do as he did, then we too will suffer, like he did. The call to follow Jesus is, to some extent, a call to suffer: to suffer with others, alongside them, and also to suffer for others. It is unlikely that very many of us will end up with the same horrific scars and undergo the same type of suffering that Jesus did on the cross. But the taking of the suffering of others upon himself, and being broken for the benefit of others, is something that we too are to contemplate and engage in as a sign of God’s love for the world. The love that we see on the cross is a sacrificial love, a love that gives of itself, a love that costs and yet that still persists in loving despite the price paid for doing so. To love and care for those in great pain or experiencing great suffering or distress is not easy; to commit ourselves wholly to a deeply engaged sacrificial life for others is difficult. But it is what we are called to do, and what God empowers us to strive towards.

Questions to Consider
What is our best Christian response to those who are suffering from terminal illness? How do we put our love into practice?

Prayer
Almighty God, teach me courageous compassion. Show me how to love unconditionally and unrelentingly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)