The Ethics of Legalising Assisted Dying - My Reply to The Times
From Dr John R. Ling
Sir, Professor Badham quotes (Letters, 24 January) some unorthodox sources to suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ is in favour of assisted suicide. Certainly, evangelical Christians discount both the Apocrypha and Hans Küng.
Rather, we are persuaded from the Bible that the sovereign God not only creates (Genesis 1:27) and superintends (Psalm 54:4) all human life, but that He also takes each life (1 Samuel 2:6; Psalm 104:29; Matthew 10:29-31). Therefore, to choose, or engineer, or bring about death, whether our own, or someone else’s, is to usurp God’s prerogative. It is to distrust His providence. Hence, it is wrong.
True, Christians do look forward to eternal life in heaven after death. As the apostle Paul wrote, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21), but he never advocated euthanasia, nor did Jesus, nor should twenty-first century Christians.
JOHN R. LING
(author, The Edge of Life – Dying, Death and Euthanasia. (2002), Day One Publications).
4 Cefn Melindwr
Aberystwyth SY23 3LS.
The original letter from The Times, 24 January 2005
From the Reverend Professor Paul Badham
Sir, Archbishop Rowan Williams argues against assisted dying (Comment, January 20).
According to St Athanasius, the best evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus is the way Christians "treat death as nothing ... they go eagerly to meet it ... rather than remain in this present life."
Many Christians accept the teaching of Ecclesiasticus 30:17 that: "Death is better than a miserable life and eternal rest than chronic sickness."
Hans Küng argues that the advantage of assisted dying is that it would enable a person to die, not in lonely isolation but "supported by true friends, with the help of an understanding doctor, in composure and confidence, in gratitude and in tranquil expectation."
Doctors have a high suicide rate. One reason for this is that they know the implications of terminal illness, and how to release themselves from it. To legalise assisted suicide would enable such doctors to act in accordance with Jesus and threat their patients as they wish to be treated themselves.
It is natural that Christians should wish for a kind and gentle death.
(Professor of Theology),
University of Wales,
Lampeter SA48 7ED.