As far as debates go, the current euthanasia debate — now getting into full swing here in Australia — is shaping up to be entirely predictable. You only need to glance at the comments on Andrew Cameron’s recent opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald to see that.
There’s a clear need to speak truthfully about all its aspects: whether it’s about the phone poll that’s being touted as proof that 85% of Australians are in favour of voluntary euthanasia or the fact that people often are tragically dehumanised and stripped of dignity by the process of dying.
Beyond this, however, I want to hazard a suggestion about how Christians might breathe some life into this debate. And what I want to suggest is that it’s not enough to simply oppose euthanasia. My hunch is that we’ll need to find — and implement — concrete ways to promote and enhance the dignity and quality of life of the terminally ill (ie. those who would otherwise contemplate voluntary euthanasia).
As I see it, this would have a number of facets — to which no doubt you could add:
- It’d involve not letting someone’s terminal illness define them or, worse, cause us to avert our gaze from them — sneaking a peak only now and then, when our guilt gets the better of us and we visit them wherever they’re tucked away. (Of course, learning to be with the dying and those in extreme pain like this, will probably require us to confront fears we’d rather not.)
- Even more positively, I imagine it’d mean coming to grips with the particular shape and texture of the moral claim people in this sort of situation exert upon us. Whether they’re transmitting family history, the traditional wisdom of our elders, or something more in the vein of Job’s refusal to explain away suffering.
- Finally, there’d also be a need to address their anxieties — those that have to do with ‘not putting a burden on their families’ and a myriad of others. As well as the inconvenience of listening and taking steps to care in practical ways, this may involve speaking words of comfort or challenge. Either way, it will mean pointing to our loving and sovereign Lord who himself suffered and was broken.
Can these dead bones live?