Jack Kevorkian, an angel or a devil?
15 years ago, when he was tried and found guilty of assisting patients in voluntary euthanasia (means ‘good death’), he was considered a devil. During the height of his notoriety he proudly admitted to assisting over 130 terminally ill people to take their own life. He once famously quipped, “Dying is not a crime!” and, “My aim is not to cause death, but to end suffering.”
I wonder, if Jack did his nefarious work today would he be tried and found guilty, or heralded as a saint? I am beginning to think more people these days would paint him with a halo rather than the horns he once was believed to wear.
It is true that we all will die someday, but in this audacious age people are no longer scared to ask questions that once were considered a sacrilege, like, "why not let each individual be allowed to choose when their time to die will be?" This line of argument is gaining traction: quality has become more important than quantity, and for many they believe it should be up to an individual’s free conscience to decide when enough is enough. We can all agree that this world is a tough place to live in; so why shouldn't we be allowed to decide when we want out?
What I have found interesting in my research is that some of the patients that Kevorkian claimed where suffering, after they were given autopsies, were found to have no disease or physical pain at all. According to a report by the Detroit Free Press, “60% of the patients who committed suicide with Kevorkian's help were not terminally ill, and at least 13 had not complained of pain.” The report further asserted that, “Kevorkian's counseling was too brief (with at least 19 patients dying less than 24 hours after first meeting Kevorkian) and lacked a psychiatric exam in at least 19 cases, 5 of which involved people with histories of depression.”
So what, right?
At least he helped them exercise their freedom. Let them die if they want to die. The new terminology for this is called, “End of Life Choice.” Even the brilliant Stephen Hawking is for it: “I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives and those who help them should be free from prosecution.” Hmm, I wonder who gets to decide when pain can be considered great? Should we once and for all take suicide off the list of traditional sins; especially when I am in ‘too’ much pain, or I have decided I have lived long enough?
Well as a Christian pastor, this whole concept of euthanasia is disturbing to me. Not only does the exchange of a new ethic from “sanctity” to “quality” put the weakest among us at risk, but I believe it violates four profound truths scripture never wants us to let go of:
(1) HUMAN WORTH IS PRICELESS (Genesis 9:5-6): Who determines the price of a soul? The autonomous individual who is in their right mind, their parents, legal guardians, the Federal budgeting office, or the Sovereign God? People once respected God’s opinion in our society, but sorry to say, not so much anymore. The experts of culture and the whims of consensus are now becoming the soul’s arbiter. And what is even more morose, inconvenience and a dwindling bank account have a funny way of recalculating human worth, which always seems to depreciate on value.
(2) ETERNITY AND HEAVENLY GLORY IS THE MAIN EVENT (Romans 8:18): What should weigh more on the scales: The amount of human pain a person must endure on earth or the degree of glory that they get to display in heaven? The more our society loses touch with God, the more importance we place on the elimination of all pain, even siding with termination of pain over life. The less heaven is a reality, the less I consider how serious my decisions might be for me in the eternal long term. Our time on earth is not a game, it is a serious journey that we must engage in battle. God is forming Christ in us (Romans 8:29 & Philippians 3:10), and "giving-up" short circuits it's attainment.
(3) GOD HAS LESSONS FOR US TO LEARN ABOUT LOVING OTHERS IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING (2 Corinthians 1:3-7): We don’t like to be bothered, and the sickness and distress of those who are suffering that are close to us can become quite bothersome. God wants us to comfort one another, because when we suffer alongside with those we love, his life overflows and becomes real and his presence is felt. Euthanasia is the easy way out - - while it may seem to cost us nothing, it results in shutting out the witness of Christ in the community of saints, while swiftly losing our very own souls.
(4) FAITH BECOMES REAL AS WE ENDURE PAIN (1 Peter 6-8): Suffering has a way of forcing us to let go of the small things down here while causing us to find our true life up in heaven hidden with God. God really is the best thing for us, but the silly things of earth, the cheap things, have caught our attention and corroded our appetites. What really matters to most people these days? I mean honestly? Sports, movies, cabins, clothes, fine food and the iPhone 6. Suffering helps us let go of these things, and makes us see that the deep things of life, love, relationships, worshiping God, becomes our satisfaction.
I agree, life is hard. It hurts. I am no stranger to pain. I lived with my wife daily as she cared for her dear mom for 14 years – she watched her slowly crumble before her eyes, turning into an immobile skeleton, helpless on a cot, as Parkinson’s Disease did it’s dirty work. My wife, my sister-in-law and father-in-law showered her with constant love for all those years; and as a result, my kids got to see sacrificial love on constant display.
I have watched my mom struggle for 54 years with a mentally handicapped daughter who can’t feed herself, talk, clean her diapers, she has ground down her teeth to nothing, and now she isn't eating and she can’t even explain to my mom why. What kind of a life does my sister live? Should we give her a morphine cocktail and let her slip slowly away? Is that humane? No, because my sister isn't a dog, she is a person made in the image of God. How dare we destroy that?
The older I get the more I realize a large portion of my dreams are never going to be realized on this earth. But I have also realized something else which trumps my original plans: “Who have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:25-26)
On April 15, 2010, Kevorkian appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°, Anderson asked, "You are saying doctors play God all the time?" Kevorkian said: "Of course. Anytime you interfere with a natural process, you are playing God."
Do you really want face the creator of the Universe and tell him we decided to take over his job when it comes to life and death; do you really want to tell him you think he is doing a terrible job?