Right to Die?  Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and End-of-Life Care
John Wyatt (2015),
Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham.
 191 pages, £8.99.
  ISBN: 978-1-78359-386-6

I have a most serious reservation about this book.  No, it is not the ambiguous title, nor the dismal cover.  It is its structure.  This Christian book consists of 10 chapters, but there is precious little that is distinctly Christian until chapter 7, that is, about halfway through the book.  And even then there are less than a dozen Scriptural references with meagre exegesis of any.

John Wyatt’s book starts with the bad news – some recent horror stories, examples of euthanasia practices in the UK and elsewhere, the false arguments from compassion and autonomy, and so on.  This is the pattern of most secular bioethics books.  It is what I call cart-before-the-horse bioethics.  This dangerous approach brings the Christian reader to these tangled issues in the wrong frame of mind.  Indeed, I confess at times, I was almost persuaded by this pro-euthanasia thinking.  By contrast, biblical mandates, such as Romans 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 2:16, insist that we process everything through the lens of Scripture and with the mind of Christ.  To do otherwise is foolhardy.

Therefore, our understanding of these life-and-death issues must first be rooted within a robust biblical framework.  For instance, how can we understand death, the primary topic of this book, without grasping the heights and depths of Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:17?  The author briefly mentions the former, but not the latter.

And there are other negatives.  The book has no index.  There is no list of useful anti-euthanasia websites, such as that of Care Not Killing.  References consist of numerous pages of unwieldy URLs.  And its overall coverage is patchy.  For example, one of the UK’s landmark legal cases, that of Miss B, is reported, but those of Tony Bland, Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy are missing.  Other trendsetters, such as Jack Kevorkian, Brittany Maynard, Peter Singer and Philip Nitschke, are also absent.  Instead, there is too much from Christian ‘clerics’, like Paul Badham, Lord Carey, Archbishop Tutu and Stanley Hauerwas, and way too many quotations from the 2012 report of Lord Falconer’s sham Commission on Assisted Dying.

Of course, no book can be encyclopaedic, but authors have a duty to be encompassing and edifying.  I do not doubt that John Wyatt – whom I have never met – and I both abhor the threats and horrors of legalised euthanasia, but I am unclear about his target in terms of subject and readership.  For me, the book is too vague and detached.  These hot topics demand perspicacity, passion and polemic.  I want more than four pages on ‘what it means to die well’ and a finale of a verse from John Donne.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide confront us with the greatest bioethical challenge of the twenty-first century.  Christians need first, to get their theology straight and second, to respond by cherishing all human life, opposing euthanasia legalisation and supporting compassionate end-of-life care.  It is with a heavy heart that I conclude that this book will do little to foster these grand endeavours.  I am gravely disappointed.

John R. Ling,


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