In our society, the issue of euthanasia is very much a debated one and when it is considered the first thing that usually comes to mind is this thing about suffering, about putting people out of their misery, not only for the terminally ill themselves, but also for their families as well, who suffer emotionally, and sometimes financially during those moments. When these are considered it is almost as if the physician assisted suicide is entirely within the place of love. In order to find out, we need to consider a few of these passages of scripture.
In Mark 10:32-34, Mark tells us that as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem with his disciples, he told them how he was going to suffer; to be betrayed, mocked, beaten and condemned to death and then rise again. But what was surprising was that James and John, as though they had not heard anything Our Lord had said came up to him and asked that they may sit one on his right and the other on his left in his glory (cf. v35-37). Are we not like those two sometimes, we quickly pass over the Lord’s passion, and in a kind of opportunistic way, want to dwell with him in his glory? It is this mentality that advocates of euthanasia use to justify the assisted suicide as an escape or end to suffering. But is that the Christian message?
In another place, it was Peter who said, ‘far be it from you Lord that you should go through all these’, after which the Lord rebuked him for that (cf. Matthew 16:21-23), and strongly insisted that ‘whoever must be his disciple must take up his cross and follow him (cf. Matthew 16:24). Where is the disciple of Christ? There also is his cross. Earlier in the encounter with James and John, Our Lord asked them if they were ready to drink the cup which he was going to drink (Mark 10:38). What other cup was he talking about but his cup of suffering (cf. Matthew 26:36-40)? In other words, to share in his glory, to share in the kingdom of God, we Christians would have to carry our crosses and suffer with Christ. We would have to share in Christ’s passion in order to share in his resurrection. That is the Christian meaning of suffering, one that ceases to be detrimental but salvific because it is Christ suffering with and through us.
St. Paul explains this very explicitly in his letter to the Romans, in the 8th Chapter where he spoke about Life in the spirit, in verses 15-17 he writes, ‘For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear ;… For the Spirit gives testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: provided we sufferwith him, that we may be also glorified with him.’ This is the Gospel of Christ that Christian medical practitioners should bring to the sick and the terminally ill; that they can unite their sufferings with that of Christ and not flee by suicide out of fear, timidity and cowardice.
In fact, St. Paul tells us also that those moments of suffering united with Christ can be offered up as spiritual treasures for the people of God. ‘Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.’ (Colossians 1:24). The excuse that such terminally ill people do not want to suffer their family members for no use is indeed human, but suicide as being the solution is not Christian. Medical practitioners should rather offer hope in such times of suffering, and help these patients not only unite their experiences with that of Christ but also, in true love, offer them up for their family members, for those who have not met Christ, for those who are obstinate in their sins, and so on. Indeed those times are good resources of divine grace. The more the Christian message is understood, the more the Christian meaning of suffering is understood, the more we realize that true compassion for the sick and the dying lies in sharing their pain. Those trying moments can also be moments of deep encounter with Christ for the family members of those who are terminally ill. If this continues, the fear of death will be conquered and Christ would truly take possession of the souls of both the ill and their families; such moments can indeed be a profound moment of conversion and renewal.
From your friend and brother: Chibuzor F. Ogamba