Reply 551 Forum 3 A Difficult Death
Reply must add a substantive response/critique to the students original thread. Reply to Song Boucree, using the subjects of the students paper.
A Difficult Death
There are biblical guidelines for those who face a slow death. The questions that Dave and Mary struggle with, such as forgoing chemotherapy to extend life a little or taking medications to hasten death, can be better understood when individuals understand life and suffering from a biblical perspective. Carson discussed what a whole life vision of human existence is according to the New Testament.1 Humans are not just souls that posses bodies, but we are embodied whether in flesh or with the resurrection body that awaits us. We can neither treat the body as if it is temporary nor only identify this body with our existence after resurrection. The mistake that people often make is to separate the two. When it comes to suffering and death, we have to understand that it is a result of the fall. Pipers modification of the Westminster catechism, The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever [italics added], is a reflection of what our lives must be, even to the end.2 God intended us to glorify him forever. As 1 Corinthians 15:26 noted, death is the last enemy, but it does not have the last word.1 Carson argued that one of the reasons why the western world struggles with the issue of death is a result of medical technology that alleviates pain.1 This mentality leads individuals to believe that they should not suffer and that there will always be a medical answer to lifes sufferings.
Orr and Sallady discussed wisdom from a healthcare perspective.1 They outlined the following three Cs of modern medicine: competence, compassion, and commitment. In Daves situation where his condition cannot be controlled, his condition can be slowed down through palliation. When palliation, such as chemotherapy, is not possible, there is the stage of comfort and dignity.1 First Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are a temple of the holy spirit, each individual will bear the responsibility of being stewards of their body. What Dave decides to do to his body is a direct reflection of his stewardship. Daves cancer can be seen as a natural progression of Gods will. Chemotherapy in itself is not wrong, but when individuals who are at Daves point of the journey no longer want to go through with chemotherapy only to extend life a little longer, they can make the decision to exercise their negative autonomy.
There are two types of autonomy, negative and positive. Negative autonomy is the right to be left alone and positive autonomy is doing as the patient wishes.1 Just because a patient wants to end their life soon does not mean it is the right thing to do. The doctrine of double effect is that an action that aims at the death of an innocent person, either as its end or as a means to its end, is always wrong.3 As evident in the doctrine of double effect, it is agreeable that the palliative option and Christian compassion in Daves case is not using medications to hasten death, but choosing medications to help alleviate pain.1 The use of medication to alleviate pain is not meant to hasten death, but to provide comfort. Unfortunately, Dave has not responded well to medications that alleviate pain.
In order for Dave to make an informed decision about what he should do next, he needs wisdom from pastoral care. Counseling from a pastor would help Dave and Mary gain biblical insights into their unique situation. Other areas of counseling include a psychologist who can help individuals like Dave cope with the following five stages of illness: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.1 By gaining wisdom from the bible, Dave, Mary, and Bethany may be able to cope and understand that God can use suffering as an instrument of good.1
There is a difference between killing and letting an individual die. Death will come to all and we should not play God by hastening death with assisted suicides. In the issue of autonomy, the Christian has to remember that God owns their bodies and they do not have the final say. Assisted suicide is not an act of beneficence, since hospice and palliative care can ease individuals into death. In contradiction to Hippocratess oath of no maleficence, assisted suicide is doing the exact opposite. The final breath of the Christian will mock death and proclaim from 1 Corinthians 15:55, Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? There is no fear in death because the Christian knows that their sins have been forgiven and eternal life is graciously awaiting them.
Kilner JF. Why the Church Needs Bioethics. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2011.
Piper J. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. 2nd ed. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books; 1996.
Wedgwood R. Defending double effect. Ratio. 2011;24(4):384-401. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2011.00508.x. Accessed April 28, 2015.