Death With Dignity? There Is No Dignity in Taking Your Own Life

Pastor Rick McDaniel | (Courtesy of Richmond Community Church)

The push to allow terminally ill people to take their own life is on in both Washington D.C. and California.

The D.C. City Council is considering Councilwoman Mary Cheh's "Death with Dignity Act of 2015" that would allow patients who are within six months of death to self-administer a prescription to end their life. They would need certification from two physicians to obtain the life ending prescription drugs.

In California the State Senate has passed "Right to Die" legislation, though it has not passed the State Assembly. The bill's authors, Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, postponed the vote last month because they did not have enough support from fellow Democrats on the nineteen-member Assembly Health Committee to advance it. They continue this month to try and bring the bill before the Assembly for a vote.

This issue gained renewed attention after the well-publicized story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old San Francisco Bay Area woman who moved with her family to Oregon and ended her life in November. Oregon allows terminally ill patients to die using lethal medications prescribed by a doctor. Maynard, who was suffering from brain cancer, argued in online videos and national media appearances that she should have had the right to die in California.

The question of whether a terminally ill person should be allowed or helped to die has been a legal, moral and religious controversy for years. But no state has passed right-to-die legislation this year, and efforts have been defeated or stalled in Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and elsewhere. Only Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have court decisions or laws permitting doctors to prescribe life ending drugs and a court ruling is pending in New Mexico.

The reason so few states have right-to-die laws and so few are considering it is the fact it is not right. It is not right to take a life and it is not a civil right to take a life, even your own. Life is precious, life is sacred we don't have the right to take a life or end it. We should not play God regardless of our health situation.

We like to think we are in control of our lives but that is not true. There are so many things beyond our control – like the weather, the past and tragedies. We certainly cannot control other people and change them against their will. It is foolish to rationalize the right to die based on our perceived control over life. We don't get to determine when we die, how we die or where we die. Like many other aspects of life we must accept what we cannot control or change.

The idea we can avoid suffering and pain is absurd. Life is hard and life is unfair. Life is a test and you won't pass if you take your own life. You can't skip the pain by taking the easy way out. Pain has a purpose and our job is to discover what it is, not work to avoid it. Jesus suffered horribly but he accepted the Father's plan for his life. We may never know why certain circumstances visit our lives but ending your life is not the answer.

The notion there is any doctor who can accurately predict your demise within six months time is foolish. No one can predict the future and though some forecasts may prove to be right, the ones that aren't mean a life was taken prematurely. God can do miracles, science can have breakthroughs and change can happen at any time. To allow anyone to predetermine your death is something that should never happen.

A classic piece of advice is to never make an important decision when you are emotionally troubled, physically weak or mentally fatigued. The possibility someone would make the ultimate decision to take his own life in a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion is irresponsible. The State should not permit such an event to take place let alone sanction it.

Death with dignity sounds majestic but it is not. There is no dignity in taking your own life. Dignity comes in giving your life for another. Jesus said, "There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend." Taking your own life is a selfish act not a loving one. Of course we have compassion for those who are suffering terminal illnesses. My own mother suffered terribly from pancreatic cancer that ultimately took her life. It is very difficult to live through such experiences. The answer, however, does not lie in playing God but in trusting Him.

Rick McDaniel is the senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Va., and He is the author of "Comeback: Overcoming The Setbacks In Your Life." You can follow him on Twitter @rickmcdaniel.

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