Monday, 24 March 2014

Our Impetus in the Euthanasia Debate

-Lester Liao

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about the discussion on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS/E). The topic is so controversial in our society because of the many things that are misunderstood. People have a poor appreciation for what palliative medicine is actually able to do throughout the late-stage disease process, people are swayed by the use of emotionally charged language that paints euthanasia/PAS in a positive light (not unlike using the term “therapeutic” abortion), people misunderstand the whole notion of what a “right” is, and people fundamentally have a flawed grasp on what human life is, both ontologically and practically. This is of course, just a brief sketch of issues I have encountered with colleagues. I am sure that many of us have heard so many other reasons. So what should we do? 

This morning in my daily reading I was reminded of God’s Word through Micah as he addressed Israel, saying, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). The Israelites were living arrogantly in a time of wealth during the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). They oppressed the poor (2:1-2), they sought preaching that would only suit their ears (2:6; 3:11), and they offered meaningless sacrifices to God that were empty rituals in light of their wider actions (6:6-7). In response to all these things, God reminded them what His desire for them had truly been – to do justice and love kindness and walk with Him. 

And yet before God calls them to these actions, He reminds them of their identity and what He had done for them. In 6:3 God rhetorically asks the Israelites, “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!” In contrast to harming them, He had actually brought them out of Egypt and redeemed them from slavery and saved them from oppressors (6:4-5). He called them to remember who they were as God’s covenantal people and reminded them of what He had done for them. It was only after they recognized this that they would have had the heart to go out and do justice and love kindness. And so it is with us. 

CMDS has been making many efforts to be vocal against euthanasia/PAS. This is a great thing. It is great because it is in the heart of God that we stand for those who are unable to protect themselves and who are being oppressed. God’s call to the Israelites is something we must remember. We must remember who we are as the adopted children of God (consider the National Conference this year from May 1-4!) and remember all that Christ has accomplished for us. For if we forget who we are, we will act without a foundation, forget why we even strive, and grow weary and discouraged. It is when we recognize our identity that we can then begin to organically act out of our nature, namely to love and care for others. 

This is what we should do. Engage colleagues and be vocal. Voice your stance on CMA forums. Do not let this debate go by without standing for justice and kindness to those who are in need of advocacy. For Christ took the initiative to save us in our helpless condition. 

If we find ourselves with little desire to engage in this wider discussion, let us consider our identities and remember who we are in Christ. For we are in a unique position to make contributions to this topic. And while I do not want to confound the fundamentals of being a Christian with being vocal about opposition to euthanasia/PAS, I do believe that when we recognize that God has appointed us to be physicians in Canada, our hearts will begin to stir. As we return to the awesome truth that is the Gospel, let’s pray that we’ll be empowered by the Holy Spirit to let our actions flow from our identity so that we may be light in this world. 

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