Worldview Matters at the End of Life

Writing this reflection on Easter Sunday, I’m reminded of the powerful influence one’s worldview exerts on end-of-life decision-making. In my considered judgment, voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are out of sync with the Christian worldview that maintains that God made human beings in his image; that believes that God the Father was co-sufferer with Christ the Son on the cross, and even now is present with us in our suffering; that trusts that God is sufficiently sovereign, merciful, and creative to transform even the darkest night into glorious day; that affirms there is meaning in suffering in this life and in the life beyond; and that reminds disciples to live with an end-time horizon in view.

For those committed to live and die for Christ, according to his sovereign will for their lives, VAE and PAS make no sense. Even Derek Humphry—though he does not embrace the Christian worldview and is an ardent supporter of euthanasia—observes that worldview makes all the difference in one’s attitude toward VAE and PAS. In Final Exit, sort of a “how-to” book on euthanasia, he cautions readers: “If you consider the God whom you worship to be the absolute master of your fate, then read no more. Seek the best pain management available and arrange for hospice care.” (Final Exit, 3rd ed., New York: Random House, 2002, p. 3) Regarding one’s understanding of suffering and death, he asks: “Does suffering ennoble? Is suffering a part of life and a preparation of death? Our response here is that if that is your firm belief you are not a candidate for voluntary euthanasia.” (“Euthanasia is Ethical.” In Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. David Bender and Bruno Leone, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1995, p. 19) Humphry may reject the Christian worldview, but he perceives that it precludes consideration of euthanasia.

The worldview of Humphry, Peter Singer, Jack Kevorkian, and a host of other euthanasia proponents is a material one devoid of the presence and influence of a personal God who created human beings in his image and who entered into the suffering of humanity in the Incarnation. In a materialistic worldview, the dignity of human beings is diminished, the notion of redemptive suffering is nonsensical, and the possibility that the glory of eternity might bring perspective to here-and-now suffering is neutralized. Brought low in such a worldview, humanity seeks to move upward through the exercise of unbridled self-determination. Disdaining true dignity that derives from being created in the image of God, human beings conceive “dignity” merely as the exercise of absolute autonomy at the end of their lives. A shadowy “dignity” indeed!

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