Joni Eareckson Tada implores Christians to combat assisted suicide movement

The Moral Danger of Physician-Assisted Suicide

Disabilities advocate Joni Eareckson Tada is urging Christians to get involved in the fight against euthanasia and assisted suicide, warning that inaction will result in the loss of “thousands” of lives.

In a recent article for Decision magazine, Tada, who recently underwent treatment for reoccurring cancer, admitted that after surviving a diving accident that left her paralyzed 50 years ago, she wanted to “end it all.”

“I begged my high school friends to bring in their mothers’ pills or their fathers’ razors,” she wrote. “When my friends refused, I would violently jerk my head back and forth on my pillow, hoping to break my neck at a higher place and thus kill myself.”

But it’s a “good thing” she never succeeded, the Joni & Friends founder said, because now, she’s content in her wheelchair.

“But what if I weren’t? What if I were still in despair? I could still get my death wish. In several countries, I could qualify for physician-assisted suicide, and the U.S. may not be far behind,” Tada said.

In June, Maine — home to the population with the oldest median age — became the eighth U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide.

In 1997, Oregon became the first state in the nation to legalize the practice. Since then a handful of other states have adopted similar laws, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington state, and New Jersey, which just adopted its law earlier this year.

In an interview with The Christian Post last year, Tada warned that any one of those states could expand the meaning of terminal illness to include any number of diseases, much like Canada and Western European countries.

"If Christians don't [push back], then I see for sure us going the way of certainly Canada or England, hopefully not Belgium or Switzerland, where you can euthanize just if you are depressed," Tada said, noting that, "In Belgium, you can be 12 years old and the court will listen to your plea if you find your suffering unbearable and your parents can't intervene."

That is insane," Tada exclaimed. "What court would think that a child would have the psychological wherewithal to understand the difference between life and death?" 

In the United Kingdom, a mother was granted the right by the nation's high court in 2014 to euthanize her 12-year-old daughter who was suffering from a host of non-life-threatening injuries.

In 2016, the Canadian government passed a law allowing people who are "incurably ill" to seek physician-assisted suicide. 

Tada wrote in Decision magazine that she believes the push to legalize physician-assisted suicide stems from a fear of suffering coupled with “an entitlement attitude.”

“[P]eople are convinced they have a right to arrange the timing of their own death,” she wrote.

But government’s responsibility isn’t to help sick or elderly people kill themselves; it’s to "protect the weak, seniors and the medically fragile,” Tada contended.

“Do we want to help people die a good death? Then, if intractable pain is the issue, let’s pour more research dollars into better pain management,” she argued. “If fear is the issue, let’s surround people with true spiritual community. Most of all, we can help terminally ill people understand what faces them on the other side of their tombstone. Jesus is the only One who conquered the grave and opened the path to life eternal. How awful if people choose 3 grams of phenobarbital in their veins, only to face a Christ-less eternity!”

Tada also cited a June 2017 Gallup poll that found 42% of churchgoers agree that doctors should be allowed to assist terminally ill people in suicide. 

The Gallup poll and a 2016 LifeWay Research poll that found "38% of evangelicals feel it's morally permissible for physicians to help when requested for aid in dying," she said, "show me that No. 1, we don't have a biblical worldview on suffering and we don't know how to deal with it. We want to drug it, escape it, euthanize it, do anything but live with it. No. 2, we fear it."

"What we have done in our country is we have allowed fundamental fears to be the framework for what we think is rational, social policy," she told CP. "That reflects a culture of contradictions."

Twenty-one states are considering assisted-suicide laws in their state assemblies, Tada said. Those states include New York, Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Utah.

She has urged Christians to “get involved.”

“Find out if your state is numbered among them, then spread the word,” she advised. “Tell people there are good laws throughout the U.S. that already help people die with dignity — laws that provide advanced pain management, as well as grant a patient the right to refuse treatment. And be alert if a right to die bill is introduced into your state assembly.”

“The lives of thousands are at stake, so ‘speak up for … the rights of all who are destitute’ (Proverbs 31:8),” Tada concluded in her piece.

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