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Originally published in Creation 19(3):21-22, June 1997
Euthanasia is one of the most critical issues ever to face Western society.
This can be seen as a logical consequence of the acceptance of evolution as truth and, therefore, the rejection of God’s authority in the Bible. With belief in evolution, the absolutes of God's Word are lost and hence right and wrong become a matter of individual opinion. After all, if we have all evolved, we are the only ones who can decide what is right and no one else can tell us what to do. However, the Bible is not silent on the issue of euthanasia and we find in His Word the foundation for defending the value of human life.
Perhaps the most common misunderstanding in the debate about euthanasia concerns what euthanasia actually is. Euthanasia is not the turning off of machines in intensive care units which may be artificially prolonging the dying process. Euthanasia is the direct act of killing a patient, e.g. by lethal injection. Thus, to avoid confusion, it is better described as patient-killing. If a respirator is finally turned off on which a patient depends, the direct intent may not be to kill that patient, because if they were to live, then no more would need to be done. However with euthanasia, if the first dose of toxic ‘medication’ was not sufficient to ‘terminate’ the patient, then higher and higher doses would be given until the patient was dead.
Evolution has played a major role in paving the way for the acceptance of euthanasia. Evolution reduces humans to the level of animals, making it just as acceptable to put down a human as put down a dog. Many evolutionists advocate euthanasia as a wonderful means to rid us of unwanted burdens. Such opinions lead to the belief that killing a severely handicapped child is ultimately no different to killing a pig.1 Since there is no God, there is no intrinsic value to human beings and therefore nothing wrong with killing a child who has Down's syndrome (a tragedy that already happens with abortion). Sadly, such opinions have wide acceptance by ethics committees deciding the fate of thousands of defenceless newborn children in our hospitals.
What are the consequences of accepting euthanasia? According to a Dutch study investigating the effects in Holland, where euthanasia is tolerated while not strictly legal, it was found that in a single year there were more than 2,700 reported euthanasia deaths. Over 50% of these were involuntary, i.e. the patient was not given a choice.2 In one case, an elderly lady required admission to hospital for her illness, but feared that she would be euthanased if she was admitted. Her physician assured her that he would take personal responsibility to see that this would not happen. However, having returned after a day absent from the hospital the physician found that the bed was occupied by another patient. Upon inquiry to the doctor in charge he found that the patient was killed because they needed the bed!3 If involuntary euthanasia is occurring in a country where euthanasia is not even legal, one can easily foresee the horrible results of legalising euthanasia.
Every day in our hospitals, decisions are made concerning patients’ lives. Should this patient be treated for his renal failure? Should that patient be resuscitated if she suffered a heart attack? Should this patient receive any treatment at all, or should even food and water be withdrawn from this patient because he has dementia? More and more doctors are deciding whether or not to treat patients on the basis of whether they believe the patient’s life is worth living, not on the basis of their intrinsic value as human beings.
What does the Bible have to say about euthanasia? In 2 Samuel 1:1–16 we read the account where an Amalekite claimed to have committed euthanasia on Saul.4 Instead of praising the act of killing Saul as merciful and kind, David calls for the man to be executed because of his not being afraid to destroy the Lord's anointed. In fact, God has ‘anointed’ all life as sacred: Genesis 9:6 says, ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.’ Thus only God, not any man, has the right to take away life, except where God has delegated that authority.5 If God has given life, man has no right to take it away, not even his own. Euthanasia therefore violates God's holy law and will bring God's judgment upon any society permitting it.
When people are sick, especially when they are terminally ill, they may at times want to die. But in almost all circumstances such feelings are a reflection of an underlying depression or a response to isolation or loneliness or pain, all of which have solutions other than killing the patient. It is only in very rare circumstances that pain cannot be adequately relieved.
Thus, requests for euthanasia are very often a cry for help and should not be taken at face value. Often the initial shock of the diagnosis and the fear of the disease process may be overwhelming. To offer lethal injection as a solution to these problems robs these people of the chance to deal with their new life situation and brings a terrible burden of guilt to their families.
According to my cancer-specialist colleagues, suicide is extremely rare in cancer patients. Dutch cancer specialist Zybigniew Zylicz says that of the 100 or so dying cancer patients who asked him for euthanasia (out of some 400), 98% changed their mind after adequate counselling and skilled pain relief.6 Euthanasia is certainly an easier and cheaper alternative to providing proper palliative care. Our governments and health systems should be concentrating on addressing the underlying issues leading to the desire to die, rather than legislate to permit the killing of the sick.
In Nazi Germany, once evolution was accepted as ‘state truth’, social Darwinism in the form of euthanasia was implemented—first on the terminally ill, then on the disabled and the elderly—those who were ‘burdens to society’—and finally on six million Jews and minority groups such as gypsies. In the same way, once euthanasia is legalised, our belief in evolution and false confidence in the opinions of men will likely carry it through society until death is not just a ‘right’, but a regimen. The vulnerable elderly, whose families have something to gain from their relative’s death, would have no protection against this evil because they are unable to fend for themselves. The right to die can easily become a duty to die, as already many are unwanted burdens under the current system.
The drastic erosion of the Christian basis for society is the logical consequence of the church’s failure to make a stand against evolution. Deny Genesis, and there is no reason for believing that man was made in God's image. We, who should be ‘salt and light’ in our culture, will be held even more responsible if we remain silent about the dangers of euthanasia whenever evolutionists are agitating for its legalization.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.