Trigger Warning: Death; Suicide; Assisted Suicide
If your mother were in pain, bedridden, and a few weeks from death, and she begged you to give her poison so she could take her own life, would you find a way to get it for her?
Yes, I would.
This is the kind of question that I’ve gone back and forth with over the years. As a kid, I remember watching news reports about Jack Kevorkian. I remember him being labeled “Dr. Death” and thinking how wrong it is to help someone commit suicide. But as I’ve gotten older and I’ve experienced a lot more of life (and death) I’ve come to see that everything isn’t as black and white as those early Kevorkian stories made things out to be.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who hold onto the strong belief that suicide as an unforgivable sin and, with it being the last one committed, a person who kills oneself is condemned to hell. I would never make light of or belittle that belief because I understand where it comes from.
Personally, I don’t think so. Yes, I call myself a Christian, so buckle up because you’re about to get a taste of my theology and philosophy after years of exposure to many denominations and personal study of scripture. My belief is that a person who is truly a Christian, in that they have acknowledged that they are a sinner and that a sinless Jesus died for those sins, all of their sins are covered: past, present, and future. Christ died once for all, meaning that the old covenant requiring a regular sacrifice to atone for sin was done away with.
Therefore, for me, this means that even at the end of our lives, if we commit a final sin just prior to death and do not have an opportunity to ask God for forgiveness for that sin, it’s still forgiven. Because all of those sins were forgiven on the cross at one time. When the gospels describe the skies turning black as Jesus hung on the cross, that’s Jesus taking on all the sin of the entire world, past, present, and future, and God the Father could not look upon his Son carrying the burden of that sin. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” that was the end of it.
That doesn’t mean that human nature does not still lead us into the temptation to sin. Sinning is fun. But that’s a discussion for another time.
As for the question at hand, I said I would deliver the poison and I meant it. I can’t stand to watch someone suffer, especially if they are only days or weeks from death anyway. What is the point of prolonging their pain? And there are plenty of people out there in pain who suffer with it day after day. I’ve known individuals who suffer from migraine headaches so intense that they have literally prayed that God would just take them, just so the pain would end. Is that wrong? Is that a sin? Praying for death because it would be a release?
Let’s take away the physical aspect of this for a moment. Imagine that the pain one feels is emotional… it’s psychological. It’s a depression that has moved a person into such a place of darkness that they see no way out. Maybe it can be argued that this is a loss of hope… even a loss of faith. But in that moment when they make the decision to end their own life, does that negate the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross?
Anyway, didn’t mean to get preachy there and I absolutely welcome dialogue in the comments. These are just my personal thoughts and beliefs on the matter. Ultimately, my answer to the question is that I would give my mother the poison if it is what she truly wanted.
I wouldn’t take it upon myself to judge that she’s suffering too much and is in too much pain to make that decision on her own. If she did not ask for the poison, I would not give it. But I will not deny her the opportunity to slip away with dignity on her own terms if that is what she desires. In fact, I have a very hard time with situations where family members will keep someone alive in only the slightest sense of the word, in that they are only alive because a machine is breathing and pumping their blood for them. I’m sorry, that is not living. In my opinion, in cases like that, the family is being selfish because they are incapable of letting go.
But what would you do? This one gets pretty deep, so I invite you to answer this in your own blog post if you want, just be sure to share your link in the comments so I can read what you have to say. Or you can respond in the comments, too! That always works.
*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.