Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Shocking News from the Netherlands

According to a report by Toby Sterling of the Associated Press, a hospital in the Netherlands has for some time been practicing the mercy killing of infants deemed to suffering from incurable pain, from which there is no hope of improvement. The hospital is establishing a review board for the process of making such decisions on behalf of infants and other persons who are found to be mentally incapable of choosing for themselves whether or not to seek to end their lives. Euthanasia in the Netherlands was legalized three years ago. Adults in great pain with no hope of relief are permitted to ask their physician for a sedative and a lethal dose of muscle relaxant, so that they may end their lives. Now, with what is identified as the "Groningen Protocol," a panel of doctors would make such a decision for those who cannot do so on their own. Four mercy killings were performed in 2003, according to the hospital. Each was reported to the local authoritues; there have been no legal actions taken against either the hospital or the doctors involved. Belgium also allows euthanasia; and a measure to legalize the practice in France is reportedly being considered by the French legislature. In the United States, Oregon has adopted a law making the practice legal.

On one level, I can understand -- that's understand, not approve -- when an adult who is suffering might find the thought of ending the suffering by death to be a relief; and that some will do more than simply consider the idea, but will take the steps necessary to kill themselves. Call it euthanasia, call it "mercy killing," call it "death with dignity" -- call it what you will: the word is "suicide." Those who are cognizant of their circumstances, and of the results of their decisions, may well choose to die. Their choice doesn't make it right -- it doesn't set aside the law of God; and they will be held accountable for their choice, as will we all. But when the person to be put to death because someone else has decided their life is no longer worth living, and that the person to be "euthanized" is incapable of deciding whether or not life should go on -- when the government sanctions this, we have gone beyond what we would call murder. I'm not sure there is a word for it stronger than murder -- but it becomes "murder most heinous," or to that effect.

Why make such a big deal about this? After all, it's not even legal (yet) in the Netherlands. No one is proposing to do this here in the US -- yet. That's why we have to point these things out -- lest we, turning a blind eye to what is taking place elsewhere, miss the clues of the coming agenda of the prince of this world, whose hatred for us is so great that he will stop at nothing to degrade and destroy us, who are made in the image of God.

We do not always know the specific reasons for suffering. What has been revealed to us is that suffering is often essential for our transformation, for our salvation; or for the salvation and transformation of those around us, particularly if they are witnesses to our suffering in a God-pleasing way. If I seek to shorten my suffering by taking my life, I may jeopardize my salvation. That's bad enough; but, if I do so on "behalf" of someone else, I may very well jeopardize both my salvation, and theirs. No, the only wise course, as difficult as it may be, is to endure the suffering as best we can, striving for patience, and to give glory to God in all circumstances.

It is easy for me to sit at my keyboard and type these words. I am not in pain; nor is anyone in my family suffering in pain (so far as I know). May God save us from the time of trial; and grant great strength and mercy to those who are experiencing pain great enough to cause the desire for their life to end, that they may endure; and that their souls be saved.