What  Christians  should  know

about  Passive  Euthanasia


Paul  Wong


The word “euthanasia” is derived from two Greek words.  Eu means good and thanatosmeans death.  According to Webster’s dictionary “euthanasia” means the act or method of causing death painlessly, so as to end suffering; advocated by some as a way to deal with persons dying of incurable, painful diseases.  Euthanasia may be divided into two categories.


Active Euthanasia could be defined as "inducing the death of a person who is undergoing intense suffering, and who has no practical hope of recovery."  Since the expressed motive is usually to release him from his misery, active euthanasia is often called "mercy killing."  In active euthanasia you directly and intentionally cause a person's death.  An example of active euthanasia is when a doctor gives a patient a lethal dose of medicine.   Active euthanasia is illegal in the United States of America.


Passive Euthanasia is usually defined as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patient's death.  For example, if a patient requires kidney dialysis to survive, and the doctors disconnect the dialysis machine, the patient will presumably die fairly soon.  Perhaps the classic example of passive euthanasia is a "do not resuscitate order". Normally if a patient has a heart attack or similar sudden interruption in life functions, medical staff will attempt to revive them. If they make no such effort but simply stand and watch as the patient dies, this is passive euthanasia.


Another method of “passive euthanasia” is used in treatment centers for the end stage of a terminal disease such as cancer.  It is not providing feeding tubes (intravenous and others) for nutrients and liquids for the patient who is in an unconscious state.  In other words, the unconscious patient is starved and dehydrated to death, but this is considered legal and acceptable in some countries outside of the United States of America.


The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to euthanasia because it is seen as murder.  Pope John Paul II said that to cause death in this way was 'a grave violation of the law of God'.


Christian Churches in the United States encourage the support of hospices.  These are special places where terminally ill people are cared for and allowed to die in comfort and dignity without the use of euthanasia.


How  do  Christians  respond  to  Passive  Euthanasia ?


Christians must first realize they are living in a world that does not know the will of the One True God.  They must not follow the worldviews concerning life, death, moral, ethics and other issues.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2)  Here are some important truths that Christians need to consider very carefully in making decisions for life-death situations.


 We are made in God’s Image:   Being created by God in His own image having spirit, soul and body our lives are different from the animal or plant life (Gen. 1:27; 1 Thes. 5:23).  It is blasphemous, dehumanizing and demeaning to refer a sick person in a state of unconsciousness or in comatose as in a “Persistent Vegetative State (PVS)”.  It is an ungodly medical terminology. Passive euthanasia regards the patient having terminal illness has little or no value therefore his or her life is not worth saving.


We belong to God:  “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)  We are stewards of our lives rather than owners.   Created to be like God, our lives have an eternal purpose; set apart for, and owned by God.   Since we are created in the image of God, our lives have intrinsic and immeasurable value. This is the source of the "sanctity of life" concept.  Because we are created in God's image, people have an inherent and God-given dignity.


Voluntary Passive Euthanasia refers to cases in which patients having terminal diseases who voluntarily write a “Living Will” to their beneficiaries that allow the doctor to end their lives by the removal of the feeding tubes.  However noble their motives might sound but it is still a veiled suicide.


We should choose Life rather than Death: God gives us a choice. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deut. 30:19) God wants us to choose life over death even for the terminally ill patient. Life-support equipment such as feeding tubes should be provided so that when the cancer patient is unconscious he or she can be continually fed with nutrients and liquids. Failure to provide such equipment or unplugging the feeding tube from the patient makes certain he or she would die within a short period of time. It is like choosing death over life, and it is not in accordance with the will of God.


The Sixth Commandment:  It is often argued that the sixth commandment “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13) does not apply to passive euthanasia.  Murder, they say, is the planned and premeditated taking of another person’s life.  Is passive euthanasia not a planned and premeditated practice of ending a sick person’s life by intentionally not providing a life- support system such as feeding tubes for nutrients and liquid?


Follow Christ’s Example:   “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Pet. 2:21) “They gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink.  But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.” (Mt. 27:34)  What they gave our Lord Jesus Christ during His crucifixion was a kind of sedative to ease His excruciating pain.  We recognize, however, that suffering is not to be avoided at any cost, especially if the cost is either our own or the patient's breaking of the Sixth Commandment.  Scripture teaches that affliction often produces spiritual growth and holiness.


Hope of Healing for the Terminally Sick Patients:   Passive euthanasia presumes there is absolutely no possibility of healing for the terminally ill patient who is in the End Stage of the sickness.  Proponents of this practice do not believe God would intervene, prayers would be answered and miracles could happen, not during this End Stage anyway.  Provision of life-support equipment such as feeding tubes for nutrients and liquids is considered unnecessary since the unconscious patient is going to die anyway so why provide for them? 


As Christians we oppose such an ungodly attitude and practice because we believe our Lord Jesus Christ can heal any person inflicted with any disease at any stage of the sickness (Mt. 4:23-24; Heb. 13:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ has healed the nobleman’s son who was “at the point of death.” (Jn. 4:46-54) “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)


 God Alone has Sovereignty over Life and Death:  The Holy Bible which is the word of God is full of references concerning this truth.  “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” (Deut. 32:39)  “The LORD kills and make alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.” (1 Sam. 2:6)  In euthanasia, active or passive, man usurps God’s prerogative over life and death which is a form of rebellion against the Creator. (References: Job 27:3; Psm. 30:3; Ecc. 12:7; Isa. 38:16; Acts 17:25,28; Rom. 4:17; 1 Tim. 6:13; Jas. 4:15).  God alone is sovereign over life and death.  Man has no jurisdiction in this area therefore no one has the mandate to end lives in any form or manner.


It  is  God’s  Will  to  preserve  Life  to  the  Last  Breath


When God created Adam “. . . the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7)  Breath is synonymous with life which is given by God alone (Isa. 42:5; Acts 17:25).  Only God can take away the breath and when He does that the person dies (Psm. 104:29).  This is how the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross. “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.” (Mk. 15:37)


God provided food (manna) and water (from the rock) for the children of Israel while they were wandering in the wilderness, because if He did not they would surely die.  During the time of famine God brought Elijah to the Brook Cherith where he could drink water, and the LORD commanded the ravens to feed him (1 Kn. 17:2-6). Our Lord Jesus Christ fed the five thousand people because they were hungry.  When the ship ran aground the apostle Paul urged the people to take food and eat so that they could survive and receive nourishment (Acts 27:33-36). 


Eating food and drinking water is the basic means of life preservation and is according to the will of God.  Passive euthanasia of not providing life-support equipment such as feeding tubes for nutrients and liquid for the patient who is unconscious thus allowing him or her to die of starvation and dehydration is certainly not according to the will of God.


There are three basic elements that are essential for life.  They are air, food and water.  When a person is sick he still needs these three elements to continue living.  Terminally ill persons also require these same elements.


It is a moral obligation for every Christian to preserve life to the last breath.  That means providing life-support equipment that does not endanger the patient’s life even for the terminal cases.  Intravenous tubes that are connected to the veins are often used to provide nutrients and liquids for the patient that cannot eat or swallow anything through the mouth.  This is the normal practice in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospitals and also in Christian hospices for the terminally ill in the United States of America.


Pope  John  Paul II  set  an  example  on  how  to  die  with  dignity


Pope John Paul II during his last days were being fed through a nasal tube because of his throat problems effectively wrote his own “living will” last year in a speech declaring some life-extending treatments a moral duty for Roman Catholics.


The ailing Pontiff sharply narrowed Catholic guidelines for treating patients nearing death in March 2004 when he described tube-feeding as a normal treatment rather than an extraordinary measure that can be stopped if all hope of recovery fades.


This indicates he would want to be kept alive by artificial means even if he fell into a coma or a persistent vegetative state, such as the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in the United States whose feeding tubes have been removed after 15 years.


“The Pope’s statement would have to be considered the equivalent of his living will,” said Father Thomas Reese S.J., editor of the Jesuit weekly America in New York. “It would be very difficult to unplug him if it came to that.”


Non  Provision  of  Feeding  Tubes  is  Passive  Euthanasia


Provision of water and food even by artificial means such as feeding tubes, always represents a natural means of preserving life, and it is not a medical act.  Its use is an obligation to provide the normal care due to the sick and even in terminal cases.  Failure to provide or withdrawal of life-support equipment can result in death by starvation or dehydration.   In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.


Recent  Case  of  Passive  Euthanasia  in  the  United  States


Here is a recent case where passive euthanasia was practiced in the United States of America.  Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990. Her communications skills were altered as a result of the injury.  She is thus a disabled American. 


The doctors have declared she is in a persistent vegetative state because of severe brain damage even though she has been alert and conscious of her surroundings.  Others in the medical field disagree.  Terri Schiavo was placed in a hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida where life-support equipment such as feeding tubes are provided.  Her mother and father have been caring for her since this happened, as she has needed the assistance of a feeding tube to keep her alive.


Terri's husband, who is her legal guardian, claims she voiced that she never wanted to be kept alive by artificial support if anything ever happened to her.  Terri’s parents have challenged the husband's right to demand the feeding tubes be removed so that she would not have nutrients or liquids, which will lead to her death by starvation and dehydration.


The feeding tube was disconnected from Terri Schiavo on Friday March 18, 2005.  In less than two weeks without food and water, Schiavo died on Thursday March 31, 2005.   Some call it Passive Euthanasia and many Christians call it murder. 


Read “The Execution of Terri Schiavo" 





May God bless you


This Web Site is presented by Paul Wong to the ARK Forum on May 21, 2005

and dedicated to all cancer survivors who believe in God's healing power.


For comments please write first to: [email protected]


Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.


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