Physician Assisted Suicide 1997

Physician-assisted suicide is one of the profound ethical issues confronting America today. With moral relativism directing a quality of life ethic, physician-assisted suicide is being advocated as a “right.” And it is even being suggested that the lives of some people are not worth living, and accordingly they should be encouraged, for the sake of themselves, family, or society, to end their lives.

The primary legal issue is whether the so-called “right to die” should be considered a liberty interest protected under Section 1 of the 14th Amendment; subsidiary legal arguments supporting physician-assisted suicide revolve around alleviating severe pain and exercising personal autonomy. But the underlying moral issue is far more profound. This matter of life and death involves our relationship with one another on the human level, and the relationship of each of us with God.

We believe that life is a gift from God, and that human life has absolute-not relative-value. Death is a significant transition that we all face. The physical and emotional suffering that may precede death can be very grievous, but it may also spiritually enrich us, and afford a last opportunity for reconciliation with mends, family, and God. While we firmly believe in mercy and compassion, that belief does not give anyone license to play God. We believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand; and killing on the other (Deut. 5:17). We affirm the ethic “always to care, never to kill.”

We pray earnestly that the Supreme Court will not attempt to interpret the Constitution as giving a right to physician-assisted suicide. We also pray that the Court will not leave this matter to the States, which would mean each State would be free to pass legislation permitting doctors to end the lives of their patients under certain circumstances. As evangelicals, we deny that there are any circumstances which justify euthanasia, with or without consent. Therefore, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) expresses its firm opposition to State legislation which would legalize physician- assisted suicide. And NAE will support federal legislation to ensure that federal tax dollars will never be used to pay for or promote physician-assisted suicide.

We recognize the pressing need to alleviate the severe pain which may precede death. Medical experts say that ninety-nine percent of such pain can be adequately managed, yet twenty-five percent of those with pain do not benefit from medical treatment which would satisfactorily alleviate the pain. We appeal to the medical profession to do all in its power to close the gap between the knowledge of how to cope with pain therapeutically and the application of that knowledge to anyone needlessly suffering pain.