Euthanasia -- By: Keith H. Essex

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 11:2 (Fall 2000)
Article: Euthanasia
Author: Keith H. Essex


Keith H. Essex

Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition

In the early part of the twenty-first century, euthanasia is destined to become the dominant ethical issue in American culture. It has become better known in the recent past because of several factors: the German euthanasia program, the cases of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Beth Cruzan, and the activities of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Recent responses to the growing acceptability of euthanasia are the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act of 1993, the recognition of euthanasia in Holland in 1993, the Oregon Physician-assisted Suicide Initiative in 1994, and the U. S. Supreme Court’s upholding of bans on physician-assisted suicide in 1977. A clear understanding of the vocabulary of euthanasia is vital because different sources are attaching differing meanings to the same words. Expressions that are especially significant are “active/passive euthanasia,” “voluntary/involuntary/non-voluntary euthanasia, “and “direct/indirect euthanasia.” The Bible is clear in its condemnation of both homicide and suicide, which cover all types of euthanasia. The Scriptures also present guidelines for dealing with death and euthanasia.

That euthanasia will become the dominant ethical issue in American culture in the first decades of the twenty-first century is the conclusion of two leading figures in the contemporary euthanasia debate. In collaboration with Mary Clement, Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society and an avowed advocate of legalized euthanasia, writes,

The right to choose an assisted death has swiftly overtaken abortion as America’s most contentious social issue. Indeed, activists and the media call it “the ultimate civil liberty.” Some 60–75% of the general public supports the right to die. The establishment—government, churches, the American Medical Association, those powerful, exclusive groups that control or influence society—however, is adamantly and vocally opposed … This being an issue everybody—from blue-collar worker to university intellectual—has strong and often fixed views, the next decade in the United States

promises to be a contentious one.1

Echoing Humphry’s conclusions, C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States and a vocal opponent of legalized euthanasia, states, “Suicide, assisted or otherwise, will replace abortion in the headlines as the ethical issue of the next decade.”2 The growing intensification of the debate over euthanasia in American society challenges the contemporary evangelical pastor and church lea...

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