Our Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide
"I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect."
Sadly this statement has been stripped from the classical version of the Hippocratic Oath which most medical students have sworn to uphold. Many doctors today do not subscribe to the oath in any form.
While human life does not necessarily need to be extended and preserved by every means possible, a person should never be intentionally murdered. Doctors may help their patients be comfortable in the dying process, but to actively help them take their own life flies in the face of the Hippocratic Oath.
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) occurs when a physician provides a medical means for death, usually a prescription for a lethal amount of medication that the patient takes on his or her own. While activists are currently calling for the legalization of PAS, they have historically called for euthanasia, the intentional killing of a patient by a doctor.
While PAS is today often wrongly referred to and justified as “death with dignity”, we must clearly stand on what God has to say about life and the end of life.
- Life is a gift of God. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
- Every life is precious to God. “The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)
- God promises to support us in difficult times. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
- Ending a life before God does may cut short a person’s opportunity to come to faith. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
- God alone determines when our life will end. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16b)
- Anyone who ends his or her own life is preempting God’s decision. Doing so dishonors God. This is wrong. It challenges God’s wisdom and goodness. We need to trust what God tells us. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
We strongly oppose physician-assisted suicide for people in each and every circumstance. God’s Word guides us in this matter. We urge the alternative, which is true compassion and care through:
- better education on end of life issues.
- the use of pain management.
- hospice and palliative care.
- delivery of proper and dignified human medical care as defined by the classical version of the Hippocratic Oath.
For more information
If you would like further information or a presentation on dealing with the topic of Physician Assisted Suicide, please contact Pastor Joel Gaertner, Vice President of Ministry [email protected].
This position was adopted by our Board of Directors on August 24, 2015 in consultation with the WELS Conference of Presidents. On October 14, 2015, the WELS Conference of Presidents endorsed this statement.