You may have heard about efforts in other states to legalize assisted-suicide–sometimes misnamed “aid in dying” or “death with dignity.”
A few states, such as Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado, have passed laws letting doctors prescribe deadly drugs to people with serious illnesses.
Supporters claim doing so helps terminally-ill people end their suffering–that assisted-suicide is for those who are enduring excruciating pain at the end of their lives. However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week is challenging that claim.
Researchers in Canada–where assisted-suicide is legal–found that people inquired about assisted-suicide not because of excruciating pain, but because they are dissatisfied with their lives in the wake of their illness.
As one researcher put it, “Their quality of life is not what they want. They are mostly educated and affluent — people who are used to being successful and in control of their lives, and it’s how they want their death to be.”
Some people have called this study “surprising,” but it really shouldn’t be. A study conducted in Oregon in 1999 concluded, “the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medications . . . was associated with views on autonomy and control, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss.”
So why should Christians be concerned about any of this? Well, here are two thoughts:
First, just like abortion, assisted-suicide fails to acknowledge that God is the creator and giver of life. Human life is sacred, and no sickness gives us an excuse to end someone’s life prematurely.
Second, Christians are called time and again to help those who suffer. However, the proper way to eliminate suffering is not to eliminate people who are suffering; that is one of the lies on which assisted-suicide is founded.
If we are going to be salt and light in a dark world, we need to be able to speak the truth on issues like assisted-suicide.
The National Institute of Health announced last week it is looking to end its ban on public funding for what some call “chimera” research–that is, research that involves combining human DNA with animal DNA.
In a nutshell, researchers are performing experiments in which human stem cells are inserted into modified animal embryos–such as modified pig embryos. The animal embryos develop with the human cells inside them.
Researchers believe they can refine the process so that eventually human organs can be “grown,” for example, inside animals and eventually “harvested” for people in need of organ transplants. They are asking the NIH to help fund their experiments, and the NIH appears to be planning to provide the funds.
If all of this sounds weird or ethically suspect to you, you aren’t alone. As Kansans for Life writes,
If the purposeful creation of human-animal chimeras is allowed for research purposes, it opens to door to abuse of the technique for reproduction, as well as creation of part-human organisms as bizarre designer humans or animals. It could produce an animal that produces human sperm or eggs. It could produce an animal with a human brain.
Some have criticized researchers for “playing God.” Others worry the experiments will lead to the creation of new, quasi-human species, and will further blur the lines between humans and animals. These are all valid points, but the immediate, ethical question this research raises is simple: Where will researchers get their stem cells?
This research involves injecting human stem cells into modified animal embryos. Human stem cells are often acquired by creating–and then killing–human embryos to harvest the embryos’ stem cells.
Research that uses human embryonic stem cells is highly unethical, because it kills unborn children in the process.
Other stem cells are acquired from aborted unborn babies, as we have written in the past. These stem cells are sometimes billed as “adult stem cells,” but they don’t actually come from adults. They come from aborted children.
It is possible to obtain stem cells ethically–without killing any unborn children–but it’s often difficult to know if researchers are using ethically-obtained stem cells. If the NIH begins funding research involving human stem cells, our first concern is that researchers will use embryonic stem cells or stem cells obtained from dead unborn children. That sort of research simply is not acceptable.
The National Institute of Health is accepting public comments on the proposed rule change until September 6. Please contact the NIH, and ask them not to fund or encourage this type of research. Click here to find out how to submit your comments.
Last week a court in New York issued a good ruling finding no “right” to assisted suicide.
The court wrote in part,
“While suicide is no longer prohibited or penalized, the ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia shores up the notion of limits in human relationships. It reflects the gravity with which we view the decision to take one’s own life or the life of another, and our reluctance to encourage or promote these decisions.”
Being pro-life means believing human life is sacred from conception until natural death, and it means opposing the taking of human life without just cause. While the term “pro-life” is often applied to work related to abortion, opposition to suicide and euthanasia falls under the purview of pro-life work as well.
In recent years suicide and euthanasia activists have worked to make gains in state legislatures and in the courts. This ruling from New York is welcomed, because there simply is no constitutional right to take human life at will, plain and simple.