The Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting on Oct. 16 addressing end-of-life questions created by medical advances, which have produced more effective care and enabled physicians to save lives that would otherwise result in death, but have also given the possibility to prolong the dying process beyond its normal course.
The new resolution states, “The NAE believes that in cases where patients are terminally ill, death appears imminent and treatment offers no medical hope for recovery, it is morally appropriate to request the withholding or withdrawal of life-support systems, allowing natural death to occur.”
NAE President Leith Anderson said, “Evangelicals want to honor life from womb to tomb. As technology advances, moral questions complicate the decisions that family members face regarding treatment of their loved ones. This resolution gives guidance to our members who are in some very difficult situations.”
The Allowing Natural Death resolution encourages the use of signed health care directives and/or a designated health care agent. Where there is no health care directive or agent, the decision to withhold or withdraw life support should be made by the dying patient’s family, legal guardian, or closest friends in consultation with the medical professionals and, when available, a member of the clergy.
The resolution also states, “While we firmly believe in mercy, compassion, and allowing natural death, we also believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand, and killing on the other. As evangelicals, we deny that there are any circumstances that justify euthanasia; that is, intentionally ending a life through medical intervention.”
The NAE board also calls for evangelicals to focus their energies on improving care for the dying and ensuring access to high-quality palliative or hospice care to alleviate needless suffering.
“We should further advocate within our churches for responsible advance care planning. It has proven to be much less morally distressing to family members when they are clear on their loved ones’ wishes for end-of-life care, and are spiritually validated for honoring that person’s desires,” the resolution states.