The Role of Autonomy
There are two main points in which our faith should differentiate how we approach end-of-life care compared to those who are not believers. The number one thing is autonomy, which is upheld within the secular medical system as a very tightly guarded aim. It’s one of the key principles of modern bioethics and it does have Christian parallels.
What the Bible teaches us is that through the cross, nothing—not a ventilator, not dialysis, not CPR—can frighten us or wrench us from God’s love.
We are all made in the image of God. We all have inherent dignity. We’re all born with free will. The one distinction I would make is that when we talk about autonomy as self-determination in the Christian worldview, it should not be an end in and of itself. We are given free will and we are made unique in the image of God to glorify him. For any decisions that we make at the end of life, autonomy is something we should consider but it should not just be for what I want for me, it should also be a projection of what should I do and how should I use my life and my free will to glorify him?
The Gift of Hope
And the second thing and most important thing is the hope that we have in Christ where death is not the end. This is a tremendous source of hope that should really guide every decision we make. It should be through this lens of the gospel because what the Bible teaches us is that through the cross, nothing—not a ventilator, not dialysis, not CPR—can frighten us or wrench us from God’s love.
The title for Between Life and Death: A Gospel-Centered Guide to End-of-Life Medical Care was actually inspired by Romans 8:38–39 because “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Clinging to that and realizing how that changes our view of life and these end-of-life scenarios can be so helpful.
The question we must always ask of suffering is this: What could possibly be worth it? Jesus’s flabbergasting claim is that he is.
Few things halt conversation as quickly as the topic of death, yet the stewardship of our God-given lives matters until the very end.
We live with more detachment from death than in any other time and place in history.