Perhaps you’ve been following the Terri Shaivo case. Its been in the news constantly for the past two weeks. Unless the Supreme Court takes immediate action, which is unlikely, Terri may be dead by the time you read this.
Numerous times, I’ve gone with families through some of their most difficult decisions. Some of those involved continuing or discontinuing life support for a loved one. When asked, I have always counseled for life but not necessarily prolonging life by extraordinary means.
What constitutes prolonging life by extraordinary means? In my view, extraordinary measures are those which artificially prolong life. Today’s technology permits doctors to artificially prolong life when, by all measures, the individual’s brain functions are gone and only a respirator maintains life. When faced with a decision about “pulling the plug,” I’ve advised families to make that decision with the counsel and advice of a qualified physician. At the same time, I’ve counseled them to provide for life’s absolute necessities – food, water, and access to air. A feeding tube is not an artificial measure. If one is to err, it should always be in favor of life!
I am shocked to discover that 70% of the American populace says this woman should die. In spite of the fact there is ample testimony that Terri responds to stimuli, seems to recognize others, and attempts to speak, the overwhelming majority accept the decision to “pull the plug.” Qualified professionals disagree on Terri’s viability, but at the root of the issue is the belief that since Terri will never fully recover she should be allowed to pass on. We are told by her husband that she did not wish to have her life prolonged artificially. In most courts of law, such testimony is hearsay since there is no written “living will.” Nonetheless, her husband, who has had a long standing relationship with another woman complete with children, wants her out of the way. For him, Terri is now just a nuisance and a hindrance to the life he wants to live.
Here are a couple of facts for you to consider. First, death is no friend. The Bible describes death as an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:27). Death is the specific punishment for sin (Genesis 2:17, 3:19; Romans 3:23). Although the Christian has no reason to fear death, the unbeliever does and should!
Second, human life is precious because God created humans in his image (Genesis 1:27). Only humans bear God’s image. Only human life is sacred.
Third, God demonstrates the special value of human life when he decrees the punishment for murder (Genesis 9:6). This is a “Creation Ordinance” and applies to all humanity for all time. The only just and appropriate punishment for the willful non-judicial taking of human life (murder) is the forfeiture of the murderer’s life. Why? Because man is made in God’s image!
Fourth, God states the value of human life in the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13). The commandment says, “You shall not murder.”
Fifth, Solomon insists any life is preferable to death. In Ecclesiastes 9:4 he says, “Anyone who is among the living has hope – even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”
In my opinion, our culture has become “a culture of death.” There is little respect for human life as evidenced in the abortion rate and the growing acceptance of euthanasia for the terminally ill. There is only one reason for this as far as I can see. Our culture has pounded the humanistic and naturalistic theory of evolution in our heads until most of us accept the idea that we are nothing more than animals – more intelligent than some – resulting from chance plus time. If humans are little more than a mass of protoplasm from the cradle to the grave, why not extinguish or eliminate that which is imperfect, inconsequential, or inconvenient? Such thinking is vaguely reminiscent of what the world heard from Hitler and his scientists in the 1930s as they pressed for the development of the “Master Race.”