The charge nurse of the medicine floor at my local hospital spoke wearily through my phone, “The older patient in bed 407, Mr. B., is not responsive, and his vital signs are stable. Can you take a look at him?”
Mr. B. was 87, had Alzheimer’s dementia and several other medical conditions. When I examined him, it was apparent from his labs and physical exam that he had become dehydrated.
The charge nurse was much older than I and nearing retirement. Giving me advice, she said, “Doctor, he’s lived a long life. Why don’t you just let him go?”
With consternation, I looked at her and responded, “Ma’am, I can’t do that. I am a physician. My responsibility is to preserve and protect life, not to escort patients out of this life. Besides, I think a little IV fluids will resuscitate him.”
After 12 hours of IV fluids, Mr. B. revived and was sitting on the side of his bed eating breakfast and talking with his family. I trembled to think of the consequences of listening to that work-weary nurse.
Euthanasia presents its demonic skull-shaped face in many shapes and forms — from the German euthanasia program that began with physicians eliminating the physically and mentally handicapped and ended with the execution of bed-wetters and undesirable ethnic groups. Just recently in Belgium, 23-year-old Shanti De Corte was put to death by medical professionals due to nothing more than longstanding depression caused by the death of several friends at the hands of terrorists six years previously. She had no other medical issues other than depression. A rigorous review by medical boards found no violation of national medical standards. Ironically, international law would not allow the death penalty for any of the terrorists. This tragic circumstance is a consequence of allowing death to be a solution to medical and social issues.
Our culture has become a culture of death — viewing death as the solution for problem pregnancies (abortion), chronic pain and depression (euthanasia), and for hopelessness (suicide). Each of these is the direct result of departing from a sanctity of human life ethic in which we subscribe to a sovereign God who alone is the giver and taker of life.
As Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The slippery slope is greased with the blood of every previous victim, and there is no stopping until we hit the grisly bottom where every deadly solution finds a grave. The headstone reads:
Here Lies the Sanctity of Life Ethic
No One Said a Word
“Well, Doctor, I’m not much for protesting. We’re quiet folks who don’t like to make a scene,” to which I recall the frequently used words of Nazi-imprisoned Pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Understand clearly that Scripture admonishes us to “deliver those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to slaughter. Oh hold them back” (Proverbs 24:11).
Anyone who shrinks back from the point of hottest conflict on the battlefield is guilty of cowardice on the entire battlefield. The point of hottest conflict in the culture war of today is the battle for the sanctity of life. “The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy … .” We have a responsibility before God to defend life and to oppose those who are anti-life.
He who disguises himself as an angel of light speaks to us with the hissing voice of a serpent, pleading, “Be reas-s-sonable. Let that patient go. Be compas-s-sionate. End their s-s-suffering.”
But what is never plainly spoken is that the proposed solution is the premature and intentional murder of the patient. Just because medical professionals follow sterile, approved protocols does not change the underlying immorality of the act.
Why cannot the voice of the Christian community be louder and stronger than that of the death culture that surrounds us as we confidently proclaim, “We love them both, the mother and the unborn child. We will support them in every way.” To those in chronic emotional and physical distress, “We are here for you. You are not alone. Jesus is enough, and He can meet every need of the human heart.”
It is at the interface of human misery and God’s mercy that we find the greatest opportunities for ministry. The mere fact that we are present at the brink, at the interface, bringing the message of hope where darkness and despair reign, gives us credibility for speaking the truth, for pushing back the darkness, for bringing light and life into the midst of the death culture.
— Robert Jackson is a family physician in Spartanburg.