IS IT MORALLY LICIT TO SWITCH MACHINES OFF ON DYING PATIENTS?
It is a moral dilemma for many Christians who at some point have their own relatives or friends depending on supporting machines in order to keep them alive, even in a vegetative state, and knowing that switching them off would mean inevitable death for them.
However difficult, this topic needs to be addressed because it’s a current reality for many and we need to know what to do in a situation like that.
WHAT IS EUTHANASIA AND THE DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES
Euthanasia as such, it is the act of painlessly killing someone who is terminally ill.
Another variant of indirect euthanasia, is switching life supporting medical equipment on the terminally ill, knowing that this would accelerate their inevitable death.
THE DIFFERENT OPINIONS
Traditionally Christians have opposed the first form of direct Euthanasia, and allowed the second form of indirect euthanasia to be applied in extreme cases.
The reason for condemning the first form of DIRECT EUTHANASIA is based on the consideration that it is a deliberate act of stopping someone’s life which contradicts the Commandment of No Killing. But even then, today there are certain liberal groups that support direct euthanasia based on grounds of pity or “lesser evil” when confronted with suffering terminally ill patients.
INDIRECT EUTHANASIA, nevertheless, it has been allowed since it is not a direct act of stopping life, but a refrain of assistance through artificial methods of life support, leaving the fatal destiny of the patient to chance.
WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS ABOUT IT
First we must establish that God alone is the author of life and the only one with the right to take it away:
“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”
(Dt 32:39)(1Sam 2:6),
and that God does not enjoy the death of humans:
“For God did not make Death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living”
ON WHAT GROUNDS WE OPPOSE
Now if God is the Author of Life, doesn’t enjoy the death of anyone and has commanded NOT TO MURDER (Exodus 20:13), it is clearly against his will to actively give someone a chemical that will cause the person to die. There is no place for doubt on that.
About switching off life supporting machines knowingly that this will actively cause the dead of the patient, the supporters of this practice, argue that since there is not active action of taking away life, it is not murder but a prudent abstention of applying mechanical aids and leaving the patient to God’s providence.
HOWEVER, according to God this is also killing.
IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, there is something called “DUTY OF CARE”. It is the principle that postulates that we all have the obligation to support each other’s life and safety and to neglect it or abstaining from doing it, is a crime.
Under this legal principle, not stopping a suicidal from killing himself or abstaining of giving first aid to a casualty it is considered a crime punishable with a jail term.
This legal principle is universal and it is based not on Christian values, but in Natural Law and the preservation of the species.
If a natural man has the duty to help another dying human to prolong his life, why would Christians take a different approach and sign the death sentences of relatives and friends?.
According to the Gospel, the active act of killing or the voluntary abstention/refusal to provide help to preserve life is an equal crime of action and omission.
The Christian, with the knowledge that God has control over our lives and the World, must never decide the death of a person but on the contrary use every means possible for the preservation of his/her life.
Not matter how ill, not matter how long, our beloved ones went to the operating table or into comma trusting in us, with the hope to see us again in this life.
To inject someone with a chemical that causes death or to abstain from providing help to the dying is equally wrong.
In cases of comma, the machines should be kept on for as long as the patient has life, conscious or not.
When their time comes finally from God, they will exhale, freely and not as a consequence of deliberated killing or criminal abstention.