Although faithful Christians know that “to depart and be with Christ is far better”, we patiently choose to remain until our work on earth is done and our Lord calls us home. Glory awaits those who wait patiently.
I was recently taken aback to read that medical assistance-in-dying (MAID) was performed in a church in Manitoba. MAID, more properly referred to as physician-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, is the act of deliberately causing the patient’s death upon their considered request. Since it was legalized in 2016, the frequency of death by MAID has grown rapidly as Canadian society becomes more aware of and accustomed to the procedure. Eligibility for MAID continues to expand; adults with disabilities are eligible to have their lives ended, even if they are not dying, and we may soon see death being offered to those struggling with mental illness and to children.
Those who are persuaded that ending the patient is an effective and appropriate intervention for serious suffering will be hard pressed to find a form of suffering for which MAID is not an appropriate consideration.
To read of MAID being performed in a church, though, seems to elevate it to a whole new level of acceptance and celebration. Family and friends were present to give their love and goodbyes. They sang a hymn together and the grandchildren sang for their grandmother one last time. Death was faced and embraced. They called it a “crossing over” ceremony, a hopeful term portent with anticipation of continued existence beyond this life.
In some ways, this all sounds very Christian, and it raises important questions for Christians who are contemplating death. If church is the place where we worship our Maker, might it not also be a good place to choose to meet our Maker? Can faithful Christians “baptize” MAID to make it an act of religious worship in the house of God? At the very least, can we accept that MAID might be permissible for some Christians, a matter of indifference and personal choice?
We cannot. Beneath a veneer of compassion and respect, and despite the sincere intentions of those involved, MAID constitutes a profound violation of human dignity and value and an affront to the high status granted to us by our Creator. It’s easy to forget this when our culture seems to wholeheartedly embrace MAID as moral progress. So must we remind ourselves of the true nature and depth of human value.
For a start, we must remind ourselves of the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic human value. Extrinsic value derives from what you can do, whereas intrinsic value derives simply from who you are. Extrinsic value depends on your usefulness, whereas intrinsic value is unconditional. Things that we can buy or sell have extrinsic value; things with intrinsic value are priceless. With this distinction in mind, we may consider some reasons why faithful Christians and faithful churches cannot opt for MAID.
First, Christianity affirms the intrinsic value of the human person but the practice of MAID denies it.
As creatures formed in the “image and likeness of God”, we are “crowned with glory and honour” and made “ruler over the works of [God’s] hands.” Our value is so profound that God is intimately and directly aware of us and our needs (“even the hairs of your head are all numbered”) and, shockingly, He gave his only Son in order to redeem us. If love is “value in action”, then behold what love and behold what value Gods find in us! And all this love comes to us unconditionally, irrespective of our abilities. Indeed, this love comes to us in spite of our lack of usefulness to God, our failure and inability to adequately worship and glorify him. The gospel reminds us that we have deep, incalculable, inherent, and intrinsic value.