Must Terminally Ill Christians Artificially Prolong Life?

By Wayne Jackson

“Is a terininally ill Christian morally obligated to prolong his life artificially (by means of drugs or machinery)?”

Life-and-death issues are some of the most difficult decisions that one may ever have to make, and this is a question many are confronting.

Since the Bible does not provide specific answers to many questions of this nature, scriptural principles must be sought in order to assist us in making crucial decisions. Let us consider several matters:

First, we are bound to acknowledge that biological life is a gift from God (Acts 17:25; 1 Timothy 6:13). No person, therefore, ever has the arbitrary right to destroy that life—either by suicide or homicide (and that includes what is euphemistically called “euthanasia”). Mercy-killing is wrong. One must not infringe upon divine territory. See our work, Biblical Ethics and Modern Science.

Second, it is a stark reality, taught both by experience and the Scriptures, that death is the inevitable destiny of all men (except for those who will be alive when Christ retums—1 Thessalonians 4:15).

As a result of sin, death has passed to all men (Romans 5:12); hence, it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27). We may, with good health habits and sound medical procedures, delay the grim reaper for a while, but the fact is, we all are terminal!

But what does one do if he is informed that he has terminal cancer. Suppose the physician tells you, “With chemotherapy you may be able to live a year; without it, you will have two to three months.”

Is the Christian obligated to subject himself to sickening treatment for the sake of a few months more? Do we love this earth and dread heaven that much? We certainly have the option of treatment, but there is nothing in the Scriptures that would require it.

And what of the accident victim who is “brain-dead,” but whose bodily functions are being maintained by sophisticated machinery? Must a Christian family maintain a loved one in a state of suspended animation for years? There is nothing in the Bible that would demand that.

Where is our hope really focused? There is something to be said for quality of life; sometimes the best thing we can do is let a loved-one go on home to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.