Monday, October 22, 2007

Living Wills

Al Mohler writes about the living wills, and his perception that they are a moral compromise with euthanasia:

Christians understand the reality of death, but we must also affirm the gift of life. Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that we are not the masters of our own fates, nor the sovereigns of our own souls. In the end, our lives are in God's hands. This society's transit down a freeway to euthanasia should concern all citizens, but Christians in particular.

The idea of a self-defined "good death" has its place in the pagan cultures of antiquity, but not in the biblical culture of Christianity. Given advances in medical treatments and technologies, end of life issues can be truly vexing and excruciatingly difficult -- even for those who attempt to think ahead. Be sure you know what you are signing when someone presents you with a form for a living will. Are you sure that it is truly consistent with your Christian beliefs? Are you sure that those reading the document will understand -- and follow -- what you sign?

What do you think? Are living wills compatible with Christian teaching?

9 comments:

e. barrett said...

I think there is a difference between doctor assisted suicide and letting your body die.

When you commit suicide you are asserting your will to die. You are essentially telling God that it's time for you to die, on your terms, not his. I think that's unbiblical.

But I don’t see that a living will is against God.

We are reaching (have reached?) a point where medical science can keep a body functioning almost indefinitely. We can use machines to replace lungs, help blood flow, and feed us. While I don’t see anything wrong with that, I’m not sure that God’s plan for our lives is to all end up unconscious, bed-ridden, and unresponsive with no hope of recovery.

If you feel that God wants you to last as long as you can in your physical body, then I say go for it. But I don’t see anything in the Bible that would prevent us from saying, “don’t force my body to stay alive.”

(This only applies to situations where a condition would be terminal even with medical attention. I think it’s probably unbiblical to refuse treatment that could actually heal you.)

Gord said...

MEdical Science "plays God" all the time. THe ethical questions are about HOW, not IF.

Most living wills are about when not to get treatment, they can't be about euthanasia because after all it that is not legal.

I see nothing contradictory between Christian faith and a living will/DNR order. But they have to be done carefully--an outright ban on heart bypass excludes you from coronary bypass surgery.

Also, an acceptance that death is a part of life and giving permission to not keep trying when it is time to die is a part of good theology and good stewardship.

Dan Trabue said...

Define "living will."

As I understand it, they're all about specifying what you do and don't want done in the case that you are physically incapacitated and unable to express your opinions to a doctor. As in, "If I'm brain dead, don't keep my body plugged into a machine to keep me alive."

That sort of thing.

And that sort of thing, I'm fine with.

Obviously, the Bible doesn't cover the specifics of medicine, so we look to principles. And I fully understand that some of us may look at principles differently.

One principle for me is, this world is not my home, I'm only passing through. Therefore, I have no fear of death and no great desire to prolong life merely for the sake of prolonging life.

Therefore, I have no problem with the notion of someone "pulling the plug." As long as that's their decision. I don't want the state or some other entity making that call, but rather, individuals and their loved ones.

So is Mohler talking about that or something else?

I'll say this, too: If it becomes clear that my body is fading away and I haven't long for this world (and the time I have left may be miserable - especially if I choose to be "treated"), then I may well decide that I want to take a hike to a beloved hillside overlooking a beautiful valley and wait to go home.

Suicide? No. Just accepting the beautiful circle of God's creation and slipping these mortal bonds.

John Meunier said...

I'm with those who don't see living wills as a problem.

Maybe I don't understand them well enough.

Our life is a gift and we are responsible for being stewards of that. But saying that you do (or do not) want massive medical intervention as your body fails does not strike me as bad stewardship.

Kansas Bob said...

Had this discussion at my place. I agree with e.barrett:

there is a difference between doctor assisted suicide and letting your body die.

I noticed that Mohler didn't say if he had a living will or not.. from the sounds of his post he may not.. I think that he should have one to insure that those charged with making life/death decisions for him represent his point of view.

RERC said...

I used to hear these arguments all the time at my seminary (TEDS). Folks like Al Mohler have another agenda in mind--euthanasia--and see things like living wills as "steps down the slppery slope."

But you know what? They're not. They're humane.

I've lost three of four parents/in-laws now, and each of them chose hospice in the end, rather than being taken to a hospital and being forced to stay alive as long as possible when the diseases they had were going to take them anyway. By this point in their lives they had tried everything medical to maintain some semblance of quality of life, and when that no longer was possible, they wanted "out" of further medical interventions.

They all had living wills, which gave them much peace in the end. No one was trying to force them to die, as Mohler suggests. Nothing active was being done to them to hasten death.

I agree wtih the posts thus far, and would add that in the name of being strident on on the supposed "biblical" issues of life and death, folks like Mohler instead are much more like the Pharisees Jesus kept chastizing. In efforts to keep people alive as long as possible through herculean intervention (thinking that this pleases God), they ignore the much larger issues of human suffering, mercy and compassion.

Michael said...

I can see the usefulness of a living will, but I also agree with E. Barrett who acknowledges the difference between natural death and doctor-assisted suicide. A living will can protect the surviving family from catastrophic costs associated with artificial maintenance of a physical body whose demise is imminent. Paying hundreds of thousands of dollars that one does not have to begin with for advanced medical technology just because it is there and is possible is not necessarily consistent with Christian theology although it probably is necessary for those who fear death or who mistakenly believe they can somehow manipulate death successfully.

John said...

I think that commentor RERC absolutely nails it with this:

I agree wtih the posts thus far, and would add that in the name of being strident on on the supposed "biblical" issues of life and death, folks like Mohler instead are much more like the Pharisees Jesus kept chastizing. In efforts to keep people alive as long as possible through herculean intervention (thinking that this pleases God), they ignore the much larger issues of human suffering, mercy and compassion.

Maintaining life very temporarily at the cost of enormous sums of money and enormous sums of pain in the name of 'life' is straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.

Earl said...

Euthanasia is a legitimate ethical concern, but such is not authorized by a Living Will. Nor is a Living Will an attempt to usurp the sovereignty of God. Prayerfully considered and then enacted with an eye to current law and reviewed periodically for possibly needed updating, a Living Will is entirely congruent with Christian teaching as it is simply a planning tool that allows us to practice good stewardship of our lives and our resources.