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Is Euthanasia Wrong?

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We kill animals to put them out of pain; why is it different for humans?


Steve Answers:

One of the basic Christian beliefs is that human beings are made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Entire books have been written about what that means. How about a few summary sentences?

To be made "in the image of God" means we have some abilities that are like God's abilities. For instance, we can create a number of things, and we have brains that can reason and choose. And of all creatures on this planet, we're the ones in charge.

Psalm 8:5, 6, puts it this way: "You made man a little lower than the angels. And you crowned him with glory and honor. You put him in charge of everything you made. You put all things under his control" (EB; see also Hebrews 2:7, 8).

While some environmentalists might choose to save a squirrel or a pine tree rather than a human being, Christians put people higher on the scale (even though they value all of creation as a gift from God for which they are accountable). That's one reason that taking the life of a person is different from taking the life of an animal (see Genesis 9:6).

But what if the person is in pain? Shouldn't we give Dr. Kevorkian a call? How about euthanasia? (It's pronounced "youth-in-Asia" but is not to be confused with young people on another continent. The word actually means "merciful killing.")

Medical technology has progressed to the point that we can keep human beings "alive" on machines for years after their hearts have stopped beating or their brains have stopped being active. Does this mean they're really alive? On the other hand, who wants to be the one to "pull the plug"?

Here's one more thing that separates people from animals. Paul wrote about his "thorn in the flesh" (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We aren't certain exactly what this painful irritation was. Paul considered it a messenger from Satan that tormented him. He prayed for God to remove it.

Instead of freeing Paul from it, God gave him grace so the "thorn in the flesh" reminded Paul that in spite of all God does through people, we're still in need of a supernatural God.

The same could be true for us. In fact, when people see what we've done in spite of how weak we are, it shows how strong God is. God can take the horrendous reality of our sin-sick world and the pain we experience in it, and turn it into something that shows how good He is. And sometimes it's the one in pain who discovers this first.

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