|Our view of God impacts end of life|
Although we may be influenced in ethical decision-making by talk of "the patient's rights" to do whatever he/she wants to do, or the "financial burden" of caring for patients, or the "quality of life" that a patient has or doesn't have—none of these considerations really leads us any closer to the question of what to do in a given case that is both right and faithful in our life with God.
Richard Ayer, Lutherans for Life article 2005
Often individuals and families are faced with making difficult decisions about life sustaining treatments without having done any advance preparation. It can be an excruciating emotional experience and not the best environment for thoughtful and wise conclusions. The patient may not be in a position to indicate their desires. Common medical decisions faced at end-of-life include: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR), Do Not Intubate Order (DNI), and Artificial Nutrition and Hydration. Do we even know what these mean? How are we to make good decisions for ourselves and those we love at the end of life?
Sadly, a 2011 Gallup poll on Physician Assisted Suicide showed that Christian opinion on the topic was virtually the same as secular opinions: 45% thought it morally acceptable to have a doctor help you kill yourself; 48% felt that it was morally wrong. Educating ourselves and others in what the Scripture says about the God of life and our lives in relationship to him needs to be a priority of the church.
We are more than our earthly bodies
As Christians we believe we are more than our physical bodies. We are not to live "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit" according to Paul (Romans 8:9-10). Even though we die physically our Spirit lives on because "he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." Because God is doing something in us at the end of life just as he forms us at the beginning of life (Psalm 139:13) we ought not to cut short God's activity by hastening death. Our life continues after our physical death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he die." (John 11:25)
We come to the moment of death with hope
As Paul prepares for his own death he writes to Timothy (2Timothy 4:6-8, 18) with a deep peace that he has fulfilled God's purpose for him on earth and "kept the faith." Even though he has experienced suffering and knows that more may lie ahead, he looks to life beyond death and finds peace. God has applied to him the righteousness of Jesus Christ. No matter the circumstances of his death God will bring him "safely into his heavenly kingdom."
We are not our own.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." In life and death we trust God with all our being.
Coming in this series: Palliative Care and Hospice Care, Pre-natal Hospice, Defining the Terms, Legal Forms.
Education resources for teaching a biblical perspective on end of life
"Created, Loved, and Called" a video series from Presbyterians Pro-Life teaching a Christian perspective from which to make life affirming, God honoring decisions.
Embrace the Journey This 8 week DVD adult education series from Anglicans for Life to help you and your church apply God's Word to end-of-life issues. Embrace the Journey discusses what the Bible teaches about mortal life and eternal life, examines the methods used to hasten death, discusses hospice and comfort care, health care proxies, practical steps to prepare for aging and dying, and the role of family and church in helping people Embrace the Journey of suffering death, and heaven.
Websites with practical information on decisions at end of life