May 26, 2016

By now you have probably heard about the many states that are being targeted with potential bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide. What you may not have heard is that many of those states have had their bills withdrawn or defeated—at least eight states since January 1 of this year. I want to share this because sometimes things seem inevitable and unstoppable when there is a full-scale assault on our religious beliefs.

I live in Minnesota, and our bill was recently withdrawn from a senate hearing by the senate author when support seemed insufficient. We know that probably isn’t the end of it and it could show up again. Yet, we praise the Lord for the heartfelt testimonies of church leaders, pro-life advocates, doctors, nurses, hospice caregivers, lawyers, educators and, most importantly, people with terminal illnesses who shared their stories and pleaded with the senators to set this proposed bill aside.

I had never before sat in on a senate hearing. I went to see how the process works and better understand why people want to legalize physician-assisted suicide. It was clear who was on what side that day as the people from Compassion & Choices—a successor to The Hemlock Society and the group supporting the bill—all wore yellow, while the people against it wore red as a message to “STOP” it. I stood in line for about a half hour and during that time could see groups of people wearing yellow and red talking amongst themselves. It was uplifting to see so many more people dressed in red than yellow that day.

I thought for a bit and then decided to approach a couple of people in yellow standing just a little way away from me. I introduced myself as being from Lutherans For Life, gave them my card, and asked them why they were there. The man immediately said he was a retired internist and was there to support the bill and give testimony. The lady volunteered that she too was Lutheran. She then shared that she was in the final stages of terminal leukemia, which she stated was beyond treatment. She described what she might go through at the very end of her life, saying she wanted to avoid that.

I continued to listen to the woman’s story as she shared that she didn’t know if she would actually use the 90 pills required to induce death. She just wanted them in her medicine cabinet to bring her comfort. She then asked that I not tell her pastor she was there that day supporting the bill. That saddened me, as I would hope everyone would turn to God through his or her pastor to receive comfort through God’s Word which promises He will be with us to the very end.

I asked both of them why they felt death is the only answer to end-of-life issues. The doctor said he felt it was a right. Later, in his testimony, he described how doctors could be over-medicating terminally ill patients and needed the option of assisted suicide. I have to admit that it gave me a shiver down my spine to hear that a doctor wanted to end lives rather than focus on other treatment or pain-relief options in an effort to do no harm.

Many doctors have said they cannot accurately pinpoint when a life will end and refuse to put a timeline on end of life as that could cause undue distress. Bless them for their position and acknowledgement that diagnosing can be inaccurate. God’s timing is perfect, and only He can predict when life ends.

Each of the people who testified that day on behalf of passing the legislation seemed quite sincere. Yet, as I saw this picture unfold, it was apparent there was something horribly wrong when people wanted to use a law to justify the taking of a life or look to a bottle of pills as security to bring comfort. Where is God in this picture?

It was uplifting to hear the side opposed to the bill testify on a need to focus on providing better palliative and hospice care to avoid suffering. When suicide is the first priority, anything that can be done to avoid suffering takes a back seat. Second priorities generally don’t get the same attention as first priorities, and this situation is no different.

When assisted suicide becomes legal, it is deemed a medical treatment. Since the pills are far less expensive than other medical options, it creates a whole new environment in the world of medicine. Doctors have to weigh the advancement of death as an option to other treatments, as will insurance companies. 

I thank the Lord that we still have many faithful state legislators who value life, are not fearful of sharing their beliefs and turning back such incredibly harmful legislation. We need to pray for each and every one of them, including those who support these potentially dangerous laws. I am also thankful for the many medical professionals who have spoken up against assisted suicide and who promise not to prescribe lethal drugs that will harm their patients.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to provide comfort to the sick, as we do not want anyone to suffer. That is why we promote work to improve palliative care so doctors will have better means to relieve suffering at life’s end until God calls us home to heaven where there is no suffering.

Let us put our trust in Him.