Doctors who kill

Posted by Fr. Tere on 10/30/2015

The contradiction of physician-assisted suicide

The Presidential Prayer Team By Candy Arrington

This year at least eighteen state legislatures and the District of Columbia are considering the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Five states already have statutes in place that allow physicians to prescribe drugs to end life. In other words, five states allow doctors to kill.

Wait. What's wrong with this picture? Physicians are trained to and charged with saving lives, aren't they?

The Hippocratic Oath

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived from 460 to 377 BC, adopted ethical guidelines for the medical profession that are still adhered to today and quoted in many medical school graduation ceremonies. The oath includes the phrase, “I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel.” The Bible puts it more concisely: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

Vulnerability of the Ill, Disabled, and Aging

Often the aging, disabled, or those who are dealing with chronic or terminal illness, lose perspective. Life seems like a series of giant hurdles with little hope that things will ever be any better. Depression and despair are common factors, and if someone suggests PAS, it may seem like an acceptable option. But thought processes in the vulnerable can become skewed and hasty decisions made as a remedy for suffering. Yet, often, those considering ending their lives are not offered professional counseling, and in some cases, decisions are made by others without the full comprehension or consent of the one whose life will be terminated.

A New Perception for Society

As with many things there is a cultural shift toward acceptance of PAS. Actions that were once considered unthinkable are slowly becoming acceptable. Some medical schools now use an updated version of the Hippocratic Oath which dances around the directive to heal and sustain life. This type of shift is evidence of society's inclination toward doing what it deems easier –ending the lives of the sick and infirm – rather than caring for them.

For insurance providers and family members interested in speeding financial gain or avoiding care-giving involvement and costs, PAS is an attractive alternative. But PAS erodes society's and the family's responsibilities to the sick and aging and sends a message to succeeding generations that there is a point at which life becomes worthless and killing rather than caring for is acceptable.

The Lure of Control

Legislation authorizing physician-assisted suicide often includes the wording “death with dignity,” but there is nothing dignified about self-murder with the help of a physician. While often lauded as personal choice, PAS is really a desperate attempt to orchestrate circumstances in a manner that feels like control. PAS alters God's plans and purposes for a person's life.

John received a grim diagnosis that included a limited life expectancy. He heard about a prayer service at a local church and, although not a member of the church, he decided to go. John arrived early and told the pastor his situation. During the service, the pastor asked members to gather around John and pray. When he returned to his doctor for more tests, all evidence of his illness was gone. His doctor was amazed and somewhat confused because he was sure the diagnosis was accurate.

Now, suppose instead of going to church that night, John had reasoned his situation was hopeless, done an online search for physician-assisted suicide, read articles, found a doctor who practiced PAS, and made plans to end his life. John, his family, his doctor, and the church who prayed for him would have missed the opportunity to experience God's power and ability to act in a seemingly impossible situation.

John chose life instead of death. No creative verbiage or legislation can change the fact that God is the creator and sustainer of life. He alone has the authority to determine the timeframe of each life.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Pray that:

  • Legislators in favor of legalizing physician-assisted suicide will have an eye-opening personal encounter with the issue that makes them rethink their position.
  • Physicians experience a renewed vision of the importance of preserving life.
  • Family members and physicians gain an understanding of the impact of depression, hopelessness, and altering thought processes, precipitated by chronic or terminal illness and aging, and recognize the importance of professional counseling for those considering taking their own lives with physician assistance.
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