Take Two of These and Don’t Call Me in the Morning

By Wayne Jackson

Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.?), a Greek physician who is known as the “father of medicine,” formulated an oath which was the doctor’s ethical guideline for many centuries. A portion of that oath pledged:

I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel.

Many physicians of today’s world have little regard for the moral maxims of the Hippocratic Oath, or, quite frankly, for the sacredness of human life.

Oregon is the only state in the nation that has a law allowing doctors to assist with suicide. Last year, twenty-two doctors in that state helped twenty-seven people kill themselves. Undoubtedly this is but a token of that which is to come. Within the next few years it is likely that more states will enact assisted-suicide laws, and probably the fatalities will accelerate drastically.

Suicide is already at epidemic proportions in our nation. We hardly need the endorsement of government (which is supposed to be a protective and supportive agency) and the cooperation of the medical profession (which should attempt to sustain life, not destroy it) as co-conspirators in this tragedy.

Why are so many choosing to end their lives? While it is impossible to know, in many cases, what triggers this last-resort measure (since many suicides do not leave notes explaining their decisions), some likely rationales may be suggested.

(1) Many entertain the illusion that their life belongs to them, to do with as they wish. Retain it or release it, the choice is personal. The notion is popular that we are autonomous (self-ruling) creatures, accountable to no higher power.

But that ideology is false. Life is a gift from God (Acts 17:25; 1 Timothy 6:13); it possesses, therefore, a sanctity. Man is not free to dispose of it at will.

(2) Multitudes labor under the notion that there is nothing beyond this life. Accordingly, in view of their painful existence (be it physical or emotional), for them a nothing would be better than the something they now must endure. If they are wrong, however, and there is a something after death, their decision has become irrevocable. Once the decision to terminate one’s life has been fully enacted, there is no turning back.

In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a favorite suicide site. Hundreds have gone to their deaths in the chilling bay waters. A few have survived. One of the survivors was interviewed on television recently. He said that when he took that step from the railing, he knew it was a mistake. He was fortunate. Most have no further opportunity to review their fatal decision.

(3) Some, who profess religious faith, likely are convinced that God understands their turmoil and will not hold them accountable for this terminal act. They gamble their eternal future upon a God they scarcely know and whose will they have not consulted.

While it is no doubt true that some who commit suicide are mentally unstable and therefore not responsible for the immediate act itself, they are accountable, nevertheless, for the deeds of their lives during the period of their rationality. Moreover, it is certain that suicide is not necessarily an irrational act—though some have so alleged.

Every suicide mentioned in the Scriptures is cast in a negative light. There is no doubt that Judas Iscariot, who died by his own hand (Matthew 27:5), was lost (John 17:12; Acts 1:25). One thing is certain: there is no opportunity for conversion in the post-death world (cf. Matthew 25:1-13; Hebrews 9:27).

(4) Some may decide to terminate their lives due to the fact that they have been mesmerized with the ideology that they will return (via reincarnation) to a more pleasant earthly existence. Such views are utterly vain, having no rational or scriptural basis.

(5) It seems to be the case that some take their own lives because of a misguided concern for others. In Oregon, recent studies revealed that sixty-three percent of those who died during the state’s third year of legally-assisted deaths stated that the reason for their dramatic decision was that they had a fear of becoming a burden to their families and friends.

What does this say about our society when we leave the impression with our loved ones that they, in their final days, will be a burden upon us? Do we, in our fast-paced, commercial society convey the disposition that we do not wish to be bothered with the infirm? Have we become such a disposal culture that people are cast away when they become a bother to us? Whatever happened to the idea that it is good for us to be gentle, caring, and patient?

Such crisis times in the waning days of our loved ones are periods of great character building for us. What a tragedy when a person’s worth is measured by how much “trouble” they have become, due to the common infirmities of life.

Finally, this must be said. The phenomenon of “mercy killing” ultimately will have a desensitizing effect upon our culture. As people get used to the idea of taking the lives of those who are handicapped, a new attitude gradually will evolve. What begins as a voluntary act of “compassion,” will eventually become a necessity for the welfare of society as a whole. America will be unable to “afford” the time and money for being distracted by those who are “unproductive.”

Dark days lie in store for our nation, though most seem to be oblivious to this grim reality.

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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.