Euthanasia represents a tension between one’s will to live and the desire to die with dignity. It is a modern challenge, only seen in countries with the health care resources to extend life beyond what was previously imagined.

The Bible offers no examples of euthanasia. The sixth commandment orders us not to kill, and we may wish to let nature take its course rather than to intervene. In today’s world, however, things are rarely so simple. When and how should a treatment be interrupted? What about accidents and illnesses that leave people in an “unlivable” situation? Could it be legitimate to end life if that’s someone will?

Facing these issues, we must define terms. In physician-assisted suicide, a patient takes steps to end their own life, in consultation with a doctor. Euthanasia is when a doctor directly causes the death of a patient, usually when the patient is experiencing extreme pain and suffering. Euthanasia can be “active” if it corresponds to a decision to cause death, or “passive” when it only stops medical treatment. A terminal sedation is the administration of sedatives at very high doses, causing a loss of mental clarity and awareness, and potentially ending the patient’s life.

While a biblical worldview fosters a profound respect for life, it doesn’t reduce issues to simple choices. Caring for people, as God does and we should also do, implies that we should take the specifics of each case into consideration. That being said, there is a great moral difference between the decision to cause death (active euthanasia) and letting someone die by interrupting medical interventions (passive euthanasia). In cases where extending life may simply prolong suffering without healing, doctors and patients may choose to end treatment, even though it may hasten the end of life.

In all end-of-life cases, palliative care (which seeks to relieve and prevent pain) is extremely important. In the cases that it is clear that medical intervention will not cure a patient, the primary goal of care should shift to relief from suffering.

Any decision should take the whole person into consideration. Whether choosing to extend physical life or to end aggressive medical measures, one must take the will of the patient’s mind into account, even if in the end we must not condone a decision that we deem as immoral, and that we believe the killing of oneself is immoral. In either case, it is a matter of restoring dignity in its three dimensions: physical, mental, and spiritual. Whatever the person facing the end of life chooses, the role of fellow Christians and the church is to accompany until the end, without judging, reminding them of the hope of eternal life.

For a deeper understanding of the issue involved, we suggest people go to the following link: