If I Were a Horse

Currently the WA Assisted Dying Bill 2019 is being discussed in parliament and it raises some questions for us – at least it should. This is an issue that Christians have historically and traditionally been against and for good reasons, but the more I ponder it the less I am convinced we should be so rigid.

Personally – if I was terminally ill and my life was a nightmare, then I’d really appreciate the option of a graceful way to exit – to have some control over my destiny – I think… I guess I may feel differently if I am faced with the reality, but I feel like I’d be happier for knowing there was an ‘escape’ button if I was in unbearable pain or if I was confined to a vegetative state.

Curiously the flip side of our reticence to consider this issue as Christians is that if anyone ought to anticipate a better future on the other side of death then it’s us – surely? It’s not to say we greet death with glee, but at least we live with a confidence that beyond ‘that door’ is something better.

Right there is a significant test of faith. Do we actually believe the stuff we spout?

I hear arguments about the elderly being bullied into taking an early exit as the kids could really do with the inheritance and I can see that as a real possibility. (Watch out Dad…) I can see it as the thin of a utilitarian wedge where every potential ‘assisted death’ is costing us $Millions and it just doesn’t make sense to keep them alive. The elderly or the incapacitated become ‘financial liabilities’ that are best eliminated in a society like ours.

Yet whatever path we choose opens possibility of abuse.

Our current system compels some people to suicide or to ‘murder’. A recent news story of helping a partner die saw the remaining partner charged with murder. That just doesn’t seem cool either. What a devastating situation to be in…

It’s also no news that we are living longer that ever and we can prolong life much further than ever before, so we really are in a different space than in centuries gone by. So, perhaps asking when death is appropriate – and maybe even necessary- is the question we should be grappling with. Sometimes people ‘die’ long before their body gives up, but it seems our only definitions of death relate to the beating of a heart.

I don’t believe we should ever remove a person’s consent on this issue and it should never be a purely utilitarian decision. Yet the flip side of this is that neither should we deny them the possibility of a peaceful planned ending to life, instead of a painful or meaningless existence.

If we are unwilling to even entertain the idea of assisted dying then we cannot begin to consider that in this current world it may be a legitimate option. We can shut down the conversation before it goes anywhere. We can cite ‘only God had the power of life and death’, or we can tussle with the complexities of our modern world, the advances in medicine and the question of when ‘death’ has already occurred even if the body is still functioning.

I imagine there is concern that those who struggle with deep dark depression will be forming a queue to get out of here fast, but the bill also has checks and balances to ensure you can’t have a bad day at work and then call it quits on life.

I feel like we need to open this one up a bit more as simply drawing ‘battle lines’ for ‘right’ and ‘left’ does not foster good dialogue.

Anyway those are my thoughts.

So if one day I am unfortunate enough to be left incapacitated and with no hope of recovery then take this as my permission to send me to a place where I will find rest and peace. We may miss each other but we also have the hope of meeting again.

3 thoughts on “If I Were a Horse

  1. A subject that Alan and I have discussed many times. He would like to go now but his heart is not ready to stop. We have left instructions not to medicate us etc. should we be in a vegetative state or a body that will not function any more. It is just too hard on those we love.

  2. Assisted Abortions and Assisted Dying discussions for the beginning of ones life and the end of ones life ! Alpha and Omega title only belongs to God for me personally ! I only hope I have the Grace and Compassion to Love on anyone who wants to do either .

    2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NKJV)
    Seeing the Invisible
    16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

  3. Sometimes I wonder if the application of God’s “power over life and death” is another Glorious Adventure in Missing the Point among Christians. In the context of the Bible (my view), this phrase is couched in the idea of God as Creator and Re-Creator and His chosen methodology of mortification of the fleshly nature and resurrection to the godly nature. Certainly, there is a spiritual death/resurrection as well as a bodily death/resurrection (per the Bible). The point of all of this is that there is an ultimate destination and an intended relationship between Creator and Creation. At least, that’s what I think “all that stuff” is about.

    But then folks treat the Bible as a medical or science text and apply it to what to do with a person who is in a vegetative state–or one who is yet unborn. Certainly, life is precious and irreplaceable but not necessarily a “mystery”–even to primitive man. I think humans, animals and plants all know *exactly* what it takes to sustain the species. I also think humans, animals and plants also understand what predicates death.

    We are handcuffed when we take a theological description of a very broad theme and (mis-) apply it to a very specific medical condition.

    I recently lost my father after a debilitating fall and about 2 weeks of suffering with little hope of recovery. It was an agonizing period as everyone “knew” the prognosis was not good and the chance of recovery slim. My Dad had made his peace with this world long before the fall and was waiting for God to decide it was his time (he was very healthy up to the day of the fall, had a living will, etc.). But the doctors–due to this Adventure in Missing the Point–do not have a vocabulary or pattern to present DEATH as a valid and viable treatment for a condition. Families are also ill-prepared to view death as a valid (positive? prudent?) option. So our only choice is to continue some minimal definition of “life” with drugs and technology–beyond any natural (God intended?) form.

    Thankfully, my Father’s condition progressed quickly enough to prevent us from having to make any “permanent” decisions. But it would have been nice to have a law that gave a provision for such a decision–separate from any personal religious or moral beliefs.

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