Brittany Maynard learned on New Year's Day that she had brain cancer. She had been married for just over a year. In April, she was given six months to live.
Facing weeks or months of suffering for herself and her family, she decided to move from California to Oregon, where she could choose euthanasia, an option supporters call "death with dignity." She has filled a prescription she can take to end her life. After her husband's birthday on October 26, unless her condition improves dramatically, she says "I will look to pass soon thereafter."
Brittany is now telling her story to advocate for euthanasia or "access for death with dignity" nationwide. The resulting media coverage has sparked a significant discussion about death and life. I have written a paper dealing with types of euthanasia, ways to choose it, medical issues, and Scripture. For today, let's focus on biblical options. Then we'll hear from someone who is dying but has found amazing courage in the love of Jesus.
Here's my theological position on this very difficult subject. Humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:28; 9:6: 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9). So long as we have the ability or potential to relate to ourselves, others, our environment, and God, we retain this "image." We should not choose medical approaches that are intended to cause or hasten death, believing that it is God who gives us life (Job 33:4), numbers our days (Job 14:5), and appoints our time to die (Hebrews 9:27). However, we can choose to die naturally, and even choose medical treatments that enhance our quality of life while shortening it, so long as death is not our intention.
Now to someone who has far more right to speak on this issue than I do. Kara Tippetts is dying of breast cancer that has metastasized. She and her family had moved to Colorado Springs to plant a church when she was first diagnosed. She tells her story in The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard. In a letter to Brittany Maynard, Kara writes, "Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known."
Kara notes that doctors who prescribe medications which cause death violate their Hippocratic oath to "first, do no harm." She tells Brittany, "That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters—but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed." In words that brought tears to my eyes when I read them, she testifies: "Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying. My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying. Because in His dying, He protected my living. My living beyond this place" (her italics).
Brittany says, "When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, 'I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next.'" Kara wants Brittany to know "whatever's next" for those who trust in Jesus: "He overcame the death you and I are facing in our cancer. He longs to know you, to shepherd you in your dying, and to give you life abundant—eternal life."
I'm praying for Brittany and Kara to be healed miraculously. I'm praying for Kara's amazing ministry as she shares God's grace in these hard days. And I'm praying for Brittany, if she has not met Jesus, to accept the love of the One who turns death into life. Please join me.
Publication date: October 10, 2014
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