How should Christians bring our perspective into the public debates about assisted dying?
Well for a start, we need to make sure that we are involved in these discussions, even if it’s just closer to home—in our offices, in our communities, among our friends, as well as in the national debate. We’ve got good news to share—so let’s get engaged. So much of this discussion assumes that some lives are just not worth living—and Christians need to say, no, every life has dignity.
Second, we’ve also got something important to say about suffering. Our culture can’t cope with suffering—it wants to reduce suffering as much as possible and at all costs. Christians say suffering is bad—it’s a result of the fall—but God can be wonderfully at work in and through it.
And third, I think one key assumption underlying the argument for assisted suicide is that there’s just nothing worse than being dependent on others. But a Christian worldview says that actually our dependence on God and on one another is fundamental to our humanity. It’s a good thing! Illnesses brings that dependence to the fore, and that can be mutually very uplifting—for the carer and the one being cared for—even in the midst of very hard times. My father found the loss of independence the hardest aspect of his illness to cope with. At the very end of his life he was paralysed and unable to speak. Those last few days were intensely sad and yet also, in a strange way, profoundly beautiful. He had given so much to us and now we in the family had the privilege of caring for him, stroking and kissing him, singing his favourite hymns and praying. Such dependence is not undignified. This is being human.