God has always shown special care for the weakest members of society.  Jesus under-girded His Gospel message with miraculous healings and acts of compassion (Matt 14:14, Luke 7:22, Luke 11:1-46).  Today, technology has advanced to the point where we are often forced to make difficult ethical decisions when it comes to medical acts of compassion.  Whether we hold to a biblical creationist or a naturalistic/evolutionary worldview often determines our medical ethics and how we treat society’s most vulnerable members, among whom are the sick, the disabled, and the dying.  Consider, in particular, organ transplanting, euthanasia, and end-of-life issues.

Organ transplanting is one of the bright spots in medical advancements in recent decades.  Many patients have had their lives completely turned around by the generosity of organ donors.  But there are ethical issues when considering how the donated organs are obtained and who is chosen to receive the transplanted organs.  Organs are often obtained from individuals who have recently been declared “brain dead.”  This can be problematic since on rare occasions, people who were declared brain dead, have recovered.

Usually there is a payment for donated organs.  Unfortunately this can lead to unethical practices.  Organs obtained illegally would typically not be properly screened, putting the transplant recipient at risk.  Sometimes individuals, perhaps family members, are coerced into donating.  Prisoners have been known to be forced to donate, sometimes losing their lives.  In Pakistan or India, poor people have sold their kidneys to provide for wealthy persons.  If the recipient is from another country it is labeled “transplant tourism.”  This begs the question of which recipients should benefit from transplants.  Although recipient patient lists are usually prioritized by wait times and severity of need, the ability of the recipient or their insurance to pay may come into play.  These are ethical issues that need to be dealt with.

Hitler’s mind was captivated by evolutionary thinking[1]  He called the vulnerable of society “useless eaters,” or “non-persons” and started eliminating not only the disabled but started killing those he said were “inferior” – Jews, Slavs, Poles, etc.  Proponents of euthanasia, as was Hitler, grade the value of human life by how much one can contribute to society and by their quality of life.  But the Christian should always focus on the fact that all individuals are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), whether they are disabled or not.

The Dutch legalized euthanasia almost two decades ago.  Advocates emphasize a patient’s choice and the relief of suffering.  However there are reports of deformed infants being killed, and patients pressured into euthanasia by their families or physicians.  “A right to die” has become “a duty to die.”  One study showed that half of those killed under the Dutch euthanasia program were depressed, a condition that can be treated.

requests for euthanasia  by patients with depressed moods was four times higher than that of patients without a depressed mood[2]

Studies also show that the pain of 96% of terminal patients can be managed, and that 97% of euthanasia requests are withdrawn when pain and depression are successfully treated.

End-of-life decisions can sometimes be difficult, but physician-assisted suicide is never the answer.  Our purpose is not extraordinary measures to prolong death, but certainly we should pursue treatments meant to sustain life.  God is sovereign; we should trust his purposes when it comes to disabilities and terminal disease.

The measure of a civilization is how well it treats its vulnerable members.  We should follow Christ’s example and commands to have compassion on the widows, orphans, poor, oppressed and afflicted (disabled) (Psalm 12:5, 82:3; James 1:27).  Evolutionary thinking leads to the idea of survival of the fittest.  It is “natural” to them for the weakest of society to be eliminated.  Unfortunately, our society is heading down the slippery slope of this worldview.  For example, Karen Ann Quinlan entered a coma in 1975.  Her respirator was removed, but she kept her feeding tube.  She died nine years later.  Terri Schiavo entered a coma in 1990, her feeding tube was removed in 2005 and she died just days later.  The difference is that removing a respirator does not cause death, but removing a feeding tube directly causes death.

The biblical approach to suffering and impending death should focus on eternal matters – to align our thinking with God’s Word.  God may have certain purposes in the life of a terminally ill patient in his final days.  He may intend for better communication among family members or reconciliations in certain relationships. Most importantly, what is the patient’s eternal condition? (“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” – Mark 8:36). Suffering may lead the patient to acknowledge his need for Christ.  God puts great value on human life because we are made in His image.  He gave His only begotten Son to restore our relationship with Him.  This is reason enough for us to always be “pro-life.”

[1] Robert Clark, Darwin, Before and After, 1948, p. 115

[2] Hilary White, “Dutch Study Shows Patients Requesting Euthanasia Likely Depressed,” LifeSiteNews.com, January 16, 2006