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Social Issues: Religion

A Christian Doctor Looks At Death

The medical doctor typically sees death as defeat. Medical care is about cure. Death is the enemy.
For the Christian, death is an anomaly. Not part of the original creation, it entered because of human disobedience. Yet for those who have accepted God's remedy for that sin, it now represents a gateway for promotion to a better world.

How then can a Christian doctor look at death? For people who have not made their peace with God, death is the end of opportunity and the beginning of eternal consequences. Yet, as death approaches, many people become more open to spiritual realities than at any other time in their lives.

Why not simply allow those who wish to hasten their death the freedom to do so? This implies that decisions are made rationally, with adequate information and without external pressure. A minimal understanding of human nature tells us this is nonsense.

Depression affects many with chronic illness. Yet working through it, they often see their remaining life as a gift to be received and to be given. Pressure, real or perceived, to "stop being a burden," drives many to desire death as a noble response. And, of course, in our era of fiscal consciousness, do not forget that death is "cost effective."

The examples down through history and across the world where therapeutic death has been tried are not reassuring. Rather than remaining under careful restraint, the practice tends to accelerate out of control into a veritable orgy of non-voluntary killing. Not only do there always seem to be pathological personalities ready to lead as in Berlin or Detroit, there also seems to be no shortage of ordinary people willing to take on the scut work as a job.

Life comes from God and death must not be orchestrated by anyone of lesser qualification. This does not mean that we can never abandon treatment when it is truly futile. There may be a fine line between some scenarios that might be debated. But some are nowhere near the line and we all know it.

Ross S.Olson MD

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