I have often remarked that with the way health care is being managed in the US, I half expect to be put on an iceberg and allowed to float away and perish. This thought is based upon a tradition among some Eskimo peoples to do exactly that when people got to old to contribute to the general welfare of the society. Note the past tense. I believe this practice may be out of vogue today. But, maybe it will be revived in America.
Consider the story of Barbara Wagner, an elderly woman in Oregon.
She was a lung cancer patient who was presented with the “choice” to end her life.
Wagner said: “I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won’t give you the medication to live.” See the whole story here.
There are numerous stories like this all over the nation. It’s variously called senicide or senilicide. One supposedly civil or dignified manner of doing this is called “doctor-assisted suicide.” Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and California have all passed legislation which call for “compassionate aid in dying.” More states are expected to follow suit. After all, it will see money and reduce the old person’s drag in the community.
Daniel Callahan, an influential bioethicist and co-founder of the prestigious Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute in New York argues for a cease-fire in America’s “war against death,” calling on us to surrender gracefully; Americans thus “may die earlier than [is now common], but they will die better deaths.” Read more here.
Now I am very aware that there are some complex ethical questions involved regarding stewardship of our God-given resources. Sometimes “heroic measures,” or extraordinary life-sustaining treatment may be vain attempts to ward off the inevitability of death. These are decisions which must be made on a case-by-case basis, with the understanding that we do not lean toward the taking of a life because it’s easier than living.
I offer two good reads, one from a very practical perspective written by a woman who went through the death of her husband and position paper from a conservative denomination.
I am rapidly approaching the age at which the metaphorical iceerg may become a reality for me. What will that look like? It may be refusal of medical care.It may be the offer of pills to end it all.
God’s Word is not silent in this matter. It teaches that we are made in God’s image. It also teaches that he is in control of our lives and our deaths. We are not to try to usurp the authority which is His alone. It also teaches that we are to live and learn through suffering, not to give in and quit, though we may desperately desire to do so. Peter wrote tht suffering is part f the Christian life.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV).
Listen to the Apostle Paul who struggled with the decision of whether to live or die.
Yes, and I will rejoice, or I know that brought your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Do not, my friends, buy into the spirit of the age which devalues human life. We already, as a society, kill millions on the birth end of the life journey. Let us work against that scourge which is abortion and be vigilant in protecting the elderly as well.