11 Reasons Why It's Immoral For a 104 Year Old Man to End His Own Life
One week ago a 104 year old Australian man ended his life in Switzerland. David Goodall, a scientist who said that his life stopped being enjoyable ‘five or 10 years ago,’ in part because of his failing mobility and eyesight ended his life by administering a lethal drug at the Life Circle clinic in Basel, Switzerland.
Goodall has been an advocate of legalized assisted dying for at least 20 years. He said, “What I would like is for other countries to follow Switzerland's lead and make these facilities available to all clients, if they meet the requirements, and the requirements not just of age, but of mental capacity."
When interviewed, Goodall said, “What's the use of that?” after describing his days, which are mostly sedentary. He said he wakes and eats breakfast and then sits until lunchtime and then sits again. He said he would love to be able to walk around the bush again, but that his impaired vision would make it difficult to enjoy.
Ultimately, Goodall’s limited sight and mobility, as well as his lack of independence due to losing his driver’s license, caused him to deem his life unworthy of continuing. He flew from Australia to Switzerland and ended it. In advance of his death, Goodall raised $20,000 for the legalization of assisted dying. Clearly, he is supported by many. Clearly, by today’s standards he lived a good long life. And even though he has four children, 12 grandchildren, and is a well respected and award winning botanist and ecologist, many people agree that he had the right to die.
It’s my opinion that his choice to end his life was immoral and we should advocate against western society’s pursuit of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Here are five secular reasons and six biblical reasons why.
Secular Reasons to Keep Assisted Suicide Illegal
1. Your life is not your own—you belong to a community and your life and death affects others.
Our lives are not islands. Each of us is connected to family members, neighbors, colleagues, baristas, cashiers, customers, others who rest on the next park bench over every afternoon. Relationships run the spectrum from deeply intimate to fairly superficial—but they all matter. What we do affects others and what they do affects us. We are not isolated. We are communal people. It is not moral to take anyone’s life into our hands, including our own. We belong to each other.
2. You don’t know what the days ahead will hold—what joy may be around the corner, or what wisdom or encouragement you may have to offer.
On the day that Goodall died I was struck by a passage I was listening to in The Count of Monte Cristo audiobook. Near the end of the French drama, the Count pleads with the young Maximilian to not end his life. Maximilian is devastated by the apparent death of his fiancé and doesn’t want to go on without her. The Count recalls how Maximilian’s father also wanted to end his life when he came to financial ruin (but he didn’t and he prospered again) and how the Count himself wanted to end his own life when he was languishing in prison (but he didn’t and he saw freedom again). Maximilian agrees to remain living for one month and is ultimately reunited with his fiancé who did not actually die. While this is the substance of fiction, it is founded in truth—how many of us have believed at one time or another that things could not get worse? That we were at our lowest? That there was no hope? And how often are these depths of despair answered with a subsequent high? We simply do not know what the future holds.
We are wrong to think that things won’t get better. We are wrong to be convinced that others don’t need us. We are wrong to conclude that our lives or knowledge or love can’t be useful in the days ahead. Goodall could have undoubtedly offered some wisdom or joy in his work to today’s generation of scientists. His family will now miss out on his perspective, which he might have offered them in the months and years ahead.
3. Deeming death a valid option due to limited abilities is immoral and dangerous.
In advocating and pursuing assisted suicide, Goodall and others like him make a statement that only those who can be productive have lives worth living. Goodall felt his life was less and less valuable as he lost his driver’s license and independence, his eye sight, his mobility. His desire to die pronounces judgment on the lives of differently abled people. But the contributions of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, scientist Stephen Hawking, and musician Stevie Wonder tell a different story. If we embrace the idea that only productive lives are valuable lives, where will we stop? Where will we draw the line? Proponents of assisted suicide are proponents of the Nazi value “Lebensunwertes Leben”—life unworthy of life.
4. Assisted suicide communicates that giving up is okay to others who are suffering and younger people—it devalues life in general.
The bottom line is that assisted suicide and euthanasia devalue life. Embracing these practices communicates to society at large that life really isn’t that special. Human lives really aren’t worth protecting. It really is okay to end them.
I’m amazed by the juxtaposition in my own state of Colorado: in one day I can easily see the signs of two public health campaigns—one to deter teens from considering suicide and one to encourage the terminally ill to consider the “compassionate” option of suicide. In one instance public health officials and community leaders cry, “Your life is worth living! You are invaluable. You are irreplaceable!” And in the other they say, “The best choice for you is to end your life. It’s okay, go ahead and be done.” Which is it, Colorado? Which is it, Switzerland? Which is it, all humans everywhere? Is human life valuable or not? Assisted suicide cheapens all lives everywhere.
5. As society evolves in this way of thinking, the right to die will turn quickly to the duty to die.
When we as a people internalize the above points—namely that my life is my own and my death won’t affect others, there are no good or valuable days ahead for me, my life isn’t worth living because of my disabilities, and that it’s the good and compassionate choice to give up—it won’t be long before we lose the ability to persevere, to be long suffering, to be patient in the face of affliction. As we view others publicly and privately ending it all, we will be quick to encourage more people to do the same. We will internalize the value that only those who want to live and who are productive in their living are worthy to live. All other lives, we will eventually feel, should be snuffed out.
It won’t be long (in fact I’ve heard a number of instances where it’s happened already) before families and doctors are weighing the value of a life against the cost of keeping it going. Does this person with cancer really contribute enough? Maybe we should withhold treatment and end their life. Does this elderly man in the nursing home have anything to add to our society? What’s the cost of caring for him? He costs more than he’s giving, so should he go on living? It will seem right to us to expect others to kill themselves rather than burdening the rest of us with their care.
The above five reasons can speak to anyone from any worldview as they wrestle with the ethics of assisted suicide. It’s my opinion that each point should deter even the most secular minded citizen from joining the cultural slide towards suicide.
Biblical Reasons to Keep Assisted Suicide Illegal
Finally, it should go without saying—though it does less and less—that the Christian worldview, rooted in scripture, is opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Sadly, claiming compassion, Christians are turning their backs on the Word of God and increasingly embracing life-ending options. Here are six reasons from scripture that I offer to my brothers and sisters in Christ to oppose assisted suicide:
1. Your life is not your own - it’s God’s breath in your lungs.
- “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).
- “…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7).
- “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24-25).
2. Only God has our days numbered.
- “[Man’s] days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass…” (Job 14:5).
- “…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me” (Psalm 139:16).
- “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14).
3. God has purpose in our suffering.
- “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
- "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
4. Human life is uniquely precious.
- “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
- “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” (Psalm 139:13-16).
- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
5. We cannot assign value to a specific life - only God can.
- "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
- “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
- “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).
6. We are not allowed to murder.
- “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
- “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’" (Romans 13:9).
- “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).
- “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).