This is something which our culture is increasingly providing schizophrenic answers to.
On the one hand we have organisations like Beyond Blue which help depressed people see that life contains hope, we put huge efforts into suicide prevention (particularly targeting vulnerable groups), and we are constantly being told how wonderful everyone is and how there are no limits to what anyone can achieve.
On the other hand, we are increasingly saying that there are some people whose lives are not worth living, who only have a short bit of time left, what they have left isn’t worth sticking around for, and wouldn’t it be kinder just to put them down in a ‘humane’ manner.
Welcome to the euthanasia debate in Australia.
What is the point of living? Well, the answer depends very much on quantifying how much time you have left, and whether you (and other people) reckon there is any value in it any more.
I understand that some people are motivated by compassion for those who are suffering, but it is misdirected compassion. And it ends up treating people the same as animals, and having no intrinsic value in and of themselves (how many times have you heard the argument ‘”you’d put a dog down if it was in pain like that”? – I’m yet to see people giving their dogs chemo to keep them going, so I’m not sure the analogy works at all, let alone when we look at the value of a human life).
But other people tend to be motivated by more than one thing, and the motivation behind most of the euthanasia movement is to believe that life only has value in the eye of the beholder. The belief that a person’s value can be quantified, and some deemed to have less value than another based on different characteristics – age, time remaining, amount of pain they endure, etc.
And this is where the debate needs to focus – what is the value of a human life? Or, what is the point of living? Because if the point of living is to do something, or achieve something, or continue above some certain standard of mobility, cognitive level or pain, we are changing our whole approach to what being human is. We are talking about treating people much as we do a t-shirt: as soon as I am tired of it, even if there is nothing wrong with it, then I’ll throw it out.
All the talk about setting strict conditions around the reasons for actively killing someone (or euthanising them, if you prefer to disguise what we are talking about) is merely window dressing. As soon as you decide that you can quantify when a person’s life has no value, there is no philosophical or logical reason not to expand the criteria, as we have seen in every overseas jurisdiction that has had euthanasia on the books for some time.
And, once euthanasia is on the books, what motivation is there for curing diseases? It disappears as the people suffering those diseases ‘disappear’.
Where is the motivation for improving palliative care for those who suffer? That also disappears – not cost effective, while there is a better ‘solution’ available.
What about compassion for those who suffer, bearing their burdens, loving and serving those in need? If we redefine compassion as killing people who are suffering, or whose bodies are deteriorating, where does that leave us? It kind of makes euthanising all those in the Manus Island detention centre suddenly a viable option, doesn’t it? A life of suffering in terrible conditions without hope? I hear the euthanasia advocates are making!
We need to recall that God created people in His image, and that gives us a value that transcends any ability or disability or pain we might have. It is the reason why we seek to help those who suffer, why we care for those in need, even at great personal cost (both financial, time and emotional cost). Because we love and value our creator, and all those created in His image.
Don’t fall for a twisted version of compassion – seek to understand true compassion by looking to God, and loving others as He loves us.