Physician-Assisted Suicide: What Christians Need to Know

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Physician-assisted suicide has become an increasingly debated topic. Bills calling for its legalization have been introduced into state legislatures across the United States, and its advocates have become increasingly vocal.

How should Christians think about this difficult topic? Erik Clary, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow for the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, addressed this question in a recent lecture.

He argues these main points:

  1. Physician-assisted suicide is a relevant, pressing issue.
  2. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are two sides of the same coin.
  3. Physician-assisted suicide has a new public face.
  4. Physician-assisted suicide advocacy struggles without physician acquiescence.
  5. Physician-assisted suicide advocacy employs much deception.
  6. “Always to Care, Never to Kill.”

Here are a few key excerpts:

How should we respond to terminal illness? 
“Our response to the tragedy of terminal and debilitating disease must be care and not killing. Even when curative treatments elude, the sufferer is due our continued care — comfort for both body and soul.”

What is physician-assisted suicide?
“Simply defined, physician-assisted suicide is intentional self-killing committed with the aid of a physician. In contrast with euthanasia, the lethal act there is committed by someone other than the victim.”

Our response to the tragedy of terminal and debilitating disease must be care and not killing.

Why does this topic matter now?
“The topic is very relevant. Some here may be surprised to know that a bill calling for [physician-assisted suicide’s] legalization was recently introduced in [North Carolina’s] legislature, in the last session recently concluded. The bill went nowhere, sponsored by a handful of Democrats. It was referred to committee, and there it languished until the session expired.

“At present, assisted suicide is legal in five states. The first state to legalize it was Oregon, which did so by a ballot initiative back in 1994 with a 51% vote in favor. In its first full year, 16 suicides were committed under that act. Last year, the figure was 132 people dead. And there’s good reason to believe the number will continue to increase…. Here in the last year and a half, there has been an invigorated movement with bills introduced in the legislatures of 28 states.”

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Center for Faith and Culture

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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