Euthanasia and the right to die with dignity

Active euthanasia, helping someone to commit suicide, supportive care of the dying … the New Apostolic Church takes a stand on human dignity, self-determination, and palliative care.

May a person put an end to the life he or she has received from God as a gift? Does it contradict the commandment “You shall not murder”, when someone who is gravely ill—or his family—refuses life-prolonging measures?

Human dignity and self-determination

Modern societies allow for a high degree of individual decision-making. For the individual this freedom also means at the same time that there is increasing social pressure to assume self-responsibility and to articulate his or her preferences. As Christians we too are directly or indirectly confronted with the different possibilities and ways of supporting a dying person or helping them to die. Whatever is demanded as an act of human dignity or as the right of the individual, must, from a Christian perspective, not contradict godly laws.

The New Apostolic Church takes a stand. In an elaboration it explains technical terms, discusses the consequences of the advances that have been made in medical technology, and explains ethical aspects.

How to treat the life we have received from God

From a Christian perspective life is given by God. Human beings deserve dignity, by virtue of the loving kindness of God (the image of God), independent of their abilities or state of health. As a gift from God, life must not be terminated arbitrarily. This does not mean, however, that all conceivable possibilities of extending life have to be used.

A summary of the statement of the Church

“Every human being has the right to die with dignity. Euthanasia and palliative care concerns the person who is dying and for whom there is no prospect of a cure or an improvement in his suffering. From a Christian perspective this can only take the form of assistance and support for the dying person and never to help someone to die. Active euthanasia as well as assisted suicide are rejected. Allowing a person to die by refusing life-extending interventions and palliative pain control and sedation for the purpose of symptom control, which carries a small risk of shortening life, are not contrary to Christian principles. Particularly in the context of the Christian view of human life, palliative medical care is of great importance. The help and support provided by those close to the dying person and pastoral care in light of the gospel can lessen anxiety and mobilise spiritual strength. A living will can help to care for the dying person in a way that respects their wishes.”

Indispensable and supportive: pastoral care

Supportive pastoral care includes sensitive acceptance of the dying person in his situation, with all his opinions and attitudes; to comfort him, but also to tolerate, that a crisis of faith can result from experiencing an illness, and that the dying person might quarrel with God.

Pastoral care has to be honest. Glossing over the situation or focusing exclusively on the immortality of the soul is of little help. Pastoral care wants to convey the message, that God is especially close during painful experiences and that He can grant special spiritual strength, as well as the fact that living through the most serious terminal illness does not in any way imply that God punishes or abandons the sufferer.

Strength in faith and divine support

Christians can experience comfort and strength even in difficult situations, based on their trust in God and their hope in His help and support. The knowledge of our eternal life and our future with God can reduce the fear of taking leave. The Bible mentions several examples, one of them being Elijah. He was at the end of his strength, and was toying with the idea of putting an end to his life. He even asked God to let him die. But God had different ideas: an angel came and brought him food and strengthened him.

New Apostolic Church: Statements on euthanasia and palliative medicine

Photo: Oliver Rütten

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Oliver Rütten
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