Case Study: End of Life Decisions
Case Study: End of Life Decisions
Healthcare practitioners continuously encounter the end of life decisions amid advancing medical technologies. Patients with devastating and terminal diseases have access to pain management and life-prolonging solutions through palliative care. However, ethical dilemmas surface when patients contemplate ending life through euthanasia. Caregivers are confronted with the moral justification of supporting or not supporting a patient’s wishes. The Christian worldview provides a foundation upon which end-of-life decisions can be made and morally justified. George has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a degenerative disease without a cure. He is contemplating euthanasia to avoid his suffering and reduce the burden on his caregivers. It George adheres to the Christian worldview, he is likely not to sanction euthanasia until it is the last resort after exploring all other options. In the ensuing case study, George’s interpretations of his condition are explored and interpreted through Christian concepts such as the fallenness of the world and hope of resurrection. The Christian worldview is used to explore his justifications for euthanasia based on his views about the value of his life.
Degenerative diseases are debilitating to the body, mind and spirit of a person, and evoke numerous spiritual questions and dilemmas. For George, the temptation would be to accuse God of allowing him to suffer despite having been a good person to others all his life. However, such a perspective would blind George from seeing God’s sovereignty and believing that God is in control (Hill, 2018). Therefore, George would interpret his suffering by reconciling two perspectives that would comfort him as he contemplates life with a degenerative disease. On one side, George was created in the image of God, which is without fault and displays God’s splendor. On the other hand, his suffering is part of the original sentence to the fallen man, which faulted God’s unique design. However, fallenness and sinfulness are inseparable. As such, both are punished with suffering and ultimately, death. Therefore, George should be comforted by accepting that his disease is one of the manifestations of the fallenness of humanity, similar to any other human suffering, including death (Smith, 2011). In this light, George would not interpret his suffering as being caused by any sins he may have committed in his life but rather as a consequence of the original sin that led to man fallenness (Smith, 2011). Such an interpretation would allow George to display God’s work and glory rather than God’s wrath. It would also bring acceptance of the disease as being inevitable, instead of the guilt and anger that God was punishing personal wrongdoings. Although as fallen creatures, George understands that he cannot achieve God’s view, he can view his suffering as a chance to display God’s magnificence (Smith, 2011).
While suffering is a legacy of the fallenness of humanity, the resurrection of Christ is the atonement for the original and subsequent sins. Subsequently, resurrection provides hope to every person that believes in Christ, regardless of his or her sins (Kirby, 2019). Therefore, George would view his suffering as the path to eternal life, which is the ultimate price promised by God. Christ was able to endure his suffering and imminent death during crucifixion because he believed in the promise of resurrection from his Father. Likewise, George would feel motivated to bear his disease and suffering with courage by the hope of resurrection in the afterlife. Resurrection promises the ending of suffering, hunger, and want. It also promises an eternal presence in God’s splendor (Kirby, 2019). Therefore, by bearing the suffering bravely from disease and the looming death, George would be guaranteed resurrection and ascension to paradise. The hope of the resurrection is particularly useful for bearing the long-lasting suffering from a terminal disease. Indeed, the degenerative nature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and its lack of cure make death a real eventuality and resurrection a vital reassurance of the eternal end of suffering. To George, the hope of resurrection would be an invitation to view the big picture of existence beyond suffering, sorrow and pain (Kirby, 2019). This expectation would bring George spiritual peace and freedom that would help him bear the ailment. Moreover, suffering provides George with an opportunity to turn towards God and contemplate his master plan for humanity.
George will embrace his condition and life as a precious gift from God if he uses the Christian world view. As such, the purpose of God is revealed in the ability to overcome human frailties such as disease and returning humans to their designed life path, that of glorifying God (Hill, 2018). Moreover, such as viewpoint would inspire him to spend the remaining days of his life in a godly manner, that is, being of more service to others, helping spread the knowledge of God and enjoying life. This would alleviate his suffering and bring peace to his remaining days. A Christian worldview is a framework that conceptualizes the world from a Christian or biblical standpoint (Blevins, 2018). Worldview elements such as the view of human nature and the good life help shape the view about the value of life as a person. Important pillars in the Christian worldview include the belief that all life was created by God with a purpose and man was created in God’s image, and thus possesses dignity. As such, life’s true value and meaning are revealed when one follows and enjoys God, and spreads the Good News (Blevins, 2018). Transhumanism explains the meaning of life by asserting that the destiny of humans is to transcend the human condition and achieve a post-human eternal existence. Therefore, the human life form is a transition phase existence designed by God to allow humans to cherish his love and enjoy his glorification (Trothen & Mercer, 2017).
George is contemplating whether to opt for euthanasia or not. He has to weigh between saving his carers and family from the anguish of caring for him when he becomes incapacitated and whether he has the right to take life into his hands, considering that it is God-given. To make the decision, George has to contemplate on the meaning of life, the sanctity of life, the purpose of life. His values regarding these three existential questions will influence his decision on sanction euthanasia or not. From a Christian worldview, God is the owner and giver of all life. This worldview upholds the sanctity of human life and its sacred essence (Jackson, 2019). As such, no human has the right to take life, whether his/hers or that of another person. To do so is to try to attain God’s status, which is the reason for the original fallenness of humankind. Taking life or authorizing others to do so, places George in direct competition with God, which plunges him further into sin. Moreover, suffering with grace and gratefulness is a highly-esteemed Christian value that enables people to endure sickness and other forms of suffering. Christ exemplified suffering as the embodiment of struggle, strength and hope (McTavish, 2016). Therefore, George’s ability to endure his debilitating disease is it to share in the redemption of Christ.
George can opt to continue living with his disease until he dies or to seek voluntary euthanasia or medically assisted suicide. Both options have more justifications that are premised in Christian beliefs. On one side, the Christian worldview prohibits the taking of human life of a person by another. Therefore, George would be justified in refusing to agree to euthanasia, despite his level of suffering. As such, while he may be placed on life support systems, George may not sanction the removal of such support to allow him to die, even when his death appears imminent. This perspective is based on God’s sovereignty and the sixth commandment, ‘though shall not kill’, an absolute prohibition of the taking of human life, including suicide, is justified (De Villiers, 2016). The moral justification is that human life is sanctified and belongs to God, and therefore, only God can take it (De Villiers, 2016). However, George may sanction euthanasia if his suffering is unbearable to himself and his caregivers. In addition, euthanasia may be morally acceptable if any means to alleviate his suffering have been explored and proven unsuccessful. Specifically, passive euthanasia that withholds treatment for upholding George’s life is morally permissible if such treatment would not cure his ailment, but instead prolong his life without alleviating the suffering (McTavish, 2016). The value for love of others would morally justify Georges opting for euthanasia. In other words, euthanasia would be morally justifiable if it relieves his suffering and that of his loved ones and caregivers when no medical solution is in sight. However, this decision is morally justified if it comes from an agreement between George, his family and medical caregivers (De Villiers, 2016). However, if I was in George’s situation, I would let the disease run its full and natural course. Instead of requesting euthanasia, I would use my remaining time to bond with my family and other people. I would display my love for them and be open to receiving their love as well. I feel that this would make my life more worthwhile that opting out of it and giving up through euthanasia.
In conclusion, the Christian worldview provides George with a framework for making end-of-life decisions related to his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Since he still has his mental faculties, George can explore all the alternatives presented to him and the moral foundations of his decisions from a Christian perspective. As such, George my consider his disease as one of the manifestations of the fallenness of humankind and may choose to use it to glorify God’s splendor through his remaining life. Moreover, George may be comforted by the hope of resurrection as he bears the anguish from the disease bravely. Using principles such as the sanctity of human life and sovereignty of God, while applying God’s commandments, especially those related with killing and love, George should be able to make morally-justified decisions related to his end of life. Altogether, he should avoid euthanasia unless it is absolutely necessary, and all other alternatives have been explored, to no avail.
Blevins, K. (2018). What is the meaning of life? Crosswalk. Retrieved from https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-is-the-meaning-of-life.html.
De Villiers, D. E. (2016). May Christians request medically assisted suicide and euthanasia? HTS Theological Studies, 72(4), 1-9.
Hill, B. (2018). Is God sovereign over illness and suffering? The Village Church. Retrieved from https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/is-god-sovereign-over-illness-and-suffering.
Jackson, W. (2019). The value of life. Christian Courier. Retrieved from https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/338-value-of-life-the.
Kirby, J. F. (2019). Resurrection an invitation to see beyond pain, sorrow and suffering. Crux. Retrieved from https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2019/04/21/resurrection-an-invitation-to-see-beyond-pain-sorrow-and-suffering/.
McTavish, F. J. (2016). Suffering, death, and eternal life. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(2), 134-141.
Smith, R. S. (2011). Finitude, Fallenness, and Immediacy: Husserlian Replies to Westphal and Smith. Philosophia Christi, 13(1), 105-126.
Trothen, T. J., & Mercer, C. (Eds.). (2017). Religion and Human Enhancement: Death, Values, and Morality. Springer.