The testimonies at the Senate Health Committee hearing on assisted suicide (SB 128) were heartfelt and heartrending. Leading the way was the impassioned plea of Brittany Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, that there be no more cases in which a terminally ill adult of sound mind is forced to leave her family and friends to seek death with dignity in a strange place. Of course, everyone knows “Thou shalt not kill.” But – we were told by every witness in favor of the bill becoming law – this is different; this is an emergency.
Brittany Maynard was twenty-nine years old when she took her own life on November 1, 2014. Diagnosed with glioblastoma – an aggressive form of brain cancer thought incurable and known to be pain-filled and debilitating – she made a very public decision to end her life before the onset of most of its symptoms rather than deal with the pain and indignity of running its course. She has become – in death – the public face of a burgeoning movement to hasten death in cases like hers. The spearhead is a group called Compassion and Choices – a new name for the old Hemlock Society – whose very existence is based on one lie after another.
Witnesses testified the bill has built-in safeguards to ensure decisions to die will be made by mentally competent patients only–that manipulations and coercion by unscrupulous loved ones and medical professionals seeking transplant materials will be deflected, that copycat suicides by otherwise healthy people will not spike, and that the experience in those states and nations sporting assisted suicide has been uniformly good. No evidence was presented to support these claims because there is no truth to any of them; the proposed law has no enforceable mechanisms, and the experience in Belgium and the Netherlands has been ghoulish. But the biggest lie is that suicide is mandated by incurable conditions like Maynard’s glioblastoma; the reality is that the disease is being cured as we speak at Duke University, according to CBS News’ Scott Pelley in a report released four days after the senate hearing.
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This is truly an emergency, but it is not different. It is not different from any of the other lies the enemy of all life is forever foisting on the people for whom the Son of God gave His life.
Don’t get me wrong. I was a witness myself at that senate hearing; I heard Debbie Ziegler testify, and I know she spoke the truth as she understood it. She believes she speaks for her daughter and for others like her. She is wrong. Dead wrong.
Glioblastoma patients are being treated with a disabled form of the polio virus – God makes all things for an eventual good purpose – and going into remission from the disease. But – the critics will say – what about Parkinson’s and ALS and other debilitating diseases and brain injuries and such? The twin realities are these: there are no patients who cannot be made comfortable during their last days, as medical experts testified to an unmoved senate panel; and there is no way to prevent a person from taking his own life if he is determined to do it. But there are waves of copycat suicides in the otherwise healthy population; there are high incidences of depression and other mental conditions in the people who consider – and may choose – a “medically desperate” end to life. In thirty years of ministry that includes suicide intervention, I have never met anyone who regretted being given a breathing space to think things through a bit more.
The reality is that ethical norms are in place for protection against destructive behavior, not for the inhibition of freedom. And a principle that cannot stand against an emergency is not worth much when times are good, either.
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In California alone, we claim “emergency exceptions” to ethical norms when we permit non-physicians to perform abortions. (The emergency exists because so few docs are willing to perform them.) We claim “this is different” when we authorize medical marijuana and taxes disguised as fire prevention fees. (There is no medical reason for smoking wacky weed when the active ingredient is available in a bottle and that fee – if it is so necessary – can be enacted according to law.) We have emergency water rationing and a proposal to raise the top of Shasta Dam – something our governor has dreamed about for years – which will not generate a drop of water in the state. Contracting with Israeli firms to build desalination plants is an approach that could solve California’s water woes forever, but it requires visionary thinking instead of pretending more storage will generate more water. But the biggest emergency we have is voters who keep re-electing the people who do whatever they want whenever they can claim, “But this is different; this is an emergency.” Many of these kool-aid drinkers are Christians.
The National Day of Repentance is calling for a week of prayer and fasting beginning April 30 – the next scheduled National Day of Repentance – and going through May 7, the National Day of Prayer. These two ministries are partnering to call our state to repentance – re-focus on God – and seeking His face in our present emergency. Some will think this a silly exercise, and they are welcome to their view. For those who think – at the very least – nothing is lost by taking the Word of God seriously as it is spoken in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, go to www.dayofrepentance1.org for details and encouragement. Our emergency is far broader than a mere lack of rain. The good news is that God’s solution is far deeper and more fruitful than what can be covered in a news conference.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.