We know, from our work with older people, that God has a purpose for each life right until the very end. Sometimes it’s clear, as it was with 96 year old Jean who lived in our retirement housing in Mirfield. When it seemed that she was dying the district nurse came in, and to her surprise Jean clasped her wrist and said, ‘Do you know where you’re going when you die? I do, and you need to know Jesus!’ Jean went on to live to be 100.
Interesting how the weekend that commemorated the Holocaust coincided with the sad story of the Dutch 74 year old with dementia, who was euthanized by a doctor even though she struggled and tried to fight off the injection. She said she didn’t want to die. She had said years before that she was in favour of euthanasia ‘when the time was right’, and her relatives and the doctor acted on that statement. The doctor has now been charged with unlawfully ending a patient’s life, the first case of its kind since euthanasia was legalised in the country, in 2002. (Evangelicals Now, Feb 2019).
If you word-search ‘euthanasia’ in this blog, up will come reports of what’s actually happening where euthanasia has been legalised, including the way Belgium doctors can end the lives of elderly patients that, in their view, no longer have value. (Imagine going into hospital and being euthanized without your consent!)
The terminology has sanitised the reality. ‘Assisted dying’ sounds civilized, doesn’t it? But the movement to legalise euthanasia has its roots in eugenics, which saw six million Jews and a few million others murdered in the Holocaust. And what’s behind eugenics? The clearest description is in John Wyatt’s book, ‘Right to Die’. Do get a copy – he describes it so well. It’s crystal clear, and easy to read.
Sometimes it’s not so clear; but each life is like a stone in a pool that causes ripples around it. Someone has said that in later life, frail elderly folk have a ministry of a different sort – to enable people to care. A kind of hands-on teaching and learning ministry, that enlarges the people who do it.
Each life is valued by God. It was knowing that that compelled William Wilberforce to campaign for 20 years until the Slave Trade Act of 1807 banned it in the UK. It’s also the reason he became vice president of our charity, (then the Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society), supporting our cause until his death in 1835. Each life is precious to God, from the moment of conception to the last breath.