Should euthanasia be legalized? After defining the difference between physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, this article examines the biblical definition of life and shows that euthanasia and assisted suicide are wrong, and Christians must raise their voices against these practices.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2015. 5 pages.


Politicians are waiting for an opportune time to resubmit the End-of-Life Choice Bill to the ballot. This proposed euthana­sia legislation affects every New Zealand family as well as the legal, medical and social fabric of our society.

It’s important to be informed about what euthanasia is, what the Bill pro­poses, and what the Bible teaches on this topic. It’s also important to be proactive and there are several ways you can help.

What is meant by “Assisted dying”, “Euthanasia” and “Physician-assisted suicide”?🔗

“Assisted dying” is a euphemistic um­brella term for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia. It’s called PAS when a doctor prescribes a lethal drug for a patient to self-administer. It’s called euthanasia when a medical professional kills a patient deliberately, usually by administering a lethal drug.

These are NOT euthanasia:

  • A patient refusing medical treatment or resuscitation
  • Switching off life support
  • Withdrawing medical treatment that has become futile or burdensome

All of the above means the patient dies a natural death from an illness or injury. Euthanasia is an unnatural death caused by a deliberate act, when the person’s body is still able to sustain life.1

Sometimes the media and those supporting euthanasia confuse good medical care with euthanasia. Some treatments, for example, open-heart surgery, involve the risk of death. Foreseeing this risk is not the same as causing death. We need to remember the overarching principle: if a doctor’s sole inten­tion is to address disease and/or relieve symptoms, then he or she has not committed euthanasia if the patient dies.

What does the End-of-Life Choice Bill Propose?🔗

The bill proposes “medically assisted death”, a euphemism for legal assisted suicide and euthanasia, for anyone over 18 who has either a “terminal illness or other medical condition that is likely to end his or her life within 12 months” or an “irreversible physical or mental medical condition that, in the person’s view, renders his or her life unbear­able”2

It would effectively legalise assisted suicide on demand since virtually every­one could claim to have an irreversible condition, for example, disability; chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, al­lergies or back pain; mental illness; skin pigmentation; scarring; or ageing-related conditions. Any condition, including de­pression, could be labeled irreversible when further treatment is refused.

It’s important to note that this legisla­tion is not for the dying, but for people who may still have months, years or decades to live.

This Bill is similar to the Belgian law. Euthanasia is also legal in the Nether­lands, Luxembourg and since June 2014, in the Canadian province of Quebec. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the US States of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. It was legal in the Northern Territory of Australia from 1995 to 1997.

Some Reasons why Euthanasia should not be Legalised🔗

  1. Legalising assisted suicide sends a hypocritical message about suicide.
  2. Legalisation changes the role of doctors from being healers and carers, to also being killers.
  3. Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide means making it legal for one person to be involved in deliberately ending the life of another – a profound change to criminal law that is open to abuse.
  4. Medical diagnosis and prognosis are too arbitrary to be grounds for legal killing. Doctors make these judgments based on probability, not certainty. So often doctors disagree on a diagnosis and rarely do patients live as long as their doctors estimated they would. I recently met a lady whose doctor diagnosed a terminal lung condition and “gave” her three months to live. That was 30 years ago!
  5. Suffering should never be a ground for legal killing, because it’s uni­versal. Everyone suffers in some way at any moment.

Suffering is also subjective and arbi­trary. It would be arrogant to tell a person with say, allergies, “You are not suffering as much as someone who has cancer.” Both people may feel their suffering is unbearable. Feelings are fickle.

A law that allows euthanasia for some will inevitably be extended to others who are also suffering, in the name of equality and avoiding discrimination. Nowhere in the world has euthanasia been limited to the people for whom it was originally legalised.

Once the law implies that suffering people are better off dead, it would be a logical step to consider it cruel to “deprive” people of death simply because they’re unable to make a legal request. It’s now regarded a necessity to euthanise disabled babies and comatose patients in the Netherlands. Dutch and Belgian studies show that doctors and nurses have euthanised patients without consent because “death is in their best interest”. According to a 2010 study, 32% of reported euthanasia cases in Flan­ders, Belgium, occurred without the pa­tient’s explicit request. In half of these cases death was the wish of the family. Ninety-two percent of these victims were 65 years or older.3 Legal euthanasia is a vehicle for elder abuse.

Written safeguards look noble on paper but are unenforceable in practice. A 2010 study showed that only 53 % of cases in Flanders, Belgium, were re­ported. Of those, less than three-quar­ters followed legal requirements.4

Why do Advocates want Euthanasia to be Legalised?🔗

The pro-euthanasia lobby wants suicide regarded as a normal and “rational choice”.5 They want assisted suicide to be legal, because they say, suicide can be violent, unsuccessful and lonely.6 Eligi­bility criteria such as “only for the termi­nally ill” is only a stepping stone towards their ultimate goal: assisted suicide for everyone, including children.7 If the pro­posed End-of-Life Choice Bill becomes law only one step would remain: elim­inating the age limit, as Belgium did about a year ago.

Some politicians want it legalised because it would reduce health care costs. Leaders of the Green movement said that they support euthanasia and any other measure that would reduce the human population, because humans are bad for the environment.8

A common pro-euthanasia argument is, “I want to control the timing and manner of my death”. Suicide can be re­garded an individual matter, but assisted suicide certainly isn’t so because it requires at least one other person. Further­more, control over death is an illusion. Suicide and assisted suicide can both involve unforeseen complications.

Members of the public who support euthanasia usually do so because they think terminally ill people want it. A UK study of the terminally ill found that the desire for hastened death is uncommon and that treatable depression is a signifi­cant factor.9

The public also fear having uncon­trollable pain. Many are unaware that virtually all pain can be controlled. Dr Paul Dunne, a palliative care special­ist, says it’s possible to guarantee that a person won’t be in pain. Only 1% of his patients have been unable to remain conscious in the process.10 Dr Peter Ad­miraal, a leading Dutch pro-euthanasia doctor, said, “essentially all pain can be controlled ... euthanasia for pain relief is unethical”.11 It’s a matter of ensur­ing everyone has access to care by ad­equately trained professionals.

Where it’s legal, people request as­sisted suicide or euthanasia mainly for existential reasons or emotional reasons such as loneliness and fear. In 2013, 93% of Oregonians receiving doctor-assist­ed suicide gave “loss of autonomy” and 89% gave being “less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable” as key reasons.12

What does the Bible say about Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide?🔗

Suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia are contrary to what the Bible teaches.

  1. God created humankind, not animals, in His image (Genesis 1:27). Euthanising animals doesn’t justify eu­thanising humans.
  2. Human life and death is God’s domain (Deuteronomy 32:39, Ecclesi­astes 8:7-8a, 1 Samuel 2:6, Psalm 31:15, Job 13:13-15, Job 14:5).
  3. God, not people or modern society, defines what’s good and what’s evil (Isaiah 5:20). Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of their good and evil deeds during this life (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  4. God commanded, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Hebrew word for murder means “illegal or immoral killing” as defined by God, not society. God condones the intentional killing of humans in only three circum­stances: self-defense (Exodus 22:2), a just war and the death penalty, which are outside the scope of this article. Any other circumstances qualify as the shed­ding of innocent blood, which God hates (Proverbs 6:16-17).
  5. Two assisted suicide requests and five suicides are mentioned in the Bible. Each of the people concerned, apart from Saul’s armour-bearer, were called wicked. Their actions are present­ed as a warning against walking in their footsteps. Abimelech asked his armour-bearer to kill him so he wouldn’t be killed by a woman (Judges 9:54). Saul asked his armour-bearer to kill him to relieve his suffering. When his armour-bearer refused, Saul killed himself and the armour-bearer killed himself also (1 Samuel 31:3-5). The other suicides were by Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18­ 19) and Judas (Matthew 27:5). Sam­son’s death was an act of war since his goal was to kill the Philistines (Judges 16:26-30).
  6. Jesus died by crucifixion, the death penalty, and not by drinking poison as some have claimed (Matthew 27:32­ 50). He didn’t commit suicide – He didn’t nail Himself to the cross. He knew the purpose of His death, but didn’t seek it (Luke 22:41-44). He lay down his life to save humankind (John 10:11-18), mo­tivated by love (John 15:12-13).
  7. Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-8) and Job (Job 6:8-9) were suffering and wished to die, but asked God to end their lives instead of committing suicide or asking others to kill them. God restored them and they are held up as good role models for us to follow. Jonah was so angry that he asked God to take his life. God rebuked him for his attitude (Jonah 4:1-11).
  8. God still expects people to follow His commandments. We love God and others by obeying His commands (John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3). God’s people are defined as those who follow His commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev 12:17 and 14:12).
  9. Jesus confirmed the validity of the Sixth Commandment and taught us to go beyond its literal meaning (Matthew 5:17-22).
  10. Jesus demonstrated compassion through care and healing, but never by killing a suffering person. He never pro­moted death over life (John 10:10).
  11. “Mercy killing” is unbiblical. Loving our neighbours includes not ending their lives (Romans 13:8-10).
  12. We should look after the vulner­able and refrain from killing them (Jer­emiah 22:3).
  13. We are called to be actively in­volved in rescuing those at risk of being killed (Proverbs 24:11-12) and defend the cause of the vulnerable (Psalm 82:3­ 4).
  14. Our response to suffering should be to trust in God (Romans 15:13), pray about everything and focus on the pos­itive (Philippians 4:6-9). Then we will receive joy, peace and hope amid our circumstances. We should live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1-2), bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and do what we can to meet others’ needs (Matthew 25:35-45).
  15. We can look forward to a new heaven and earth without suffering (Rev­elation 21:1-5).
  16. We should not fear death (Romans 8:37-39) nor hasten our own death, because our bodies are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

    The last verse of In Christ Alone13 sums it up well:

No guilt in life, no fear in death – This is the power of Christ in me; From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Till He returns or calls me home – Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

What can you do to Help?🔗

Legalised euthanasia is by no means a ‘lost cause’ or inevitable: dozens of euthanasia bills have successfully been defeated in New Zealand and overseas! The key to success is being informed and proactive. It’s also important to show the media and politicians that there is significant opposition to euthanasia and to ensure anti-euthanasia arguments are being represented in each debate. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Be informed. Sign up to the Euthanasia-Free NZ newsletter. Send us your questions.14
  2. Help to inform others by sharing information on social media and else­where.
  3. Help raise our credibility by ‘liking’ our Facebook page,15 following us on Twitter16 and becoming a member of Euthanasia-Free NZ.17 The media and politicians take these numbers as an in­dication of support for our cause.
  4. Write letters to the editor and comment on online articles.
  5. Attend talks on euthanasia and ask probing questions for the benefit of the audience.
  6. Support life-friendly politicians, not only by giving them your vote, but also in practical ways between elections. Encourage them and pray for them.
  7. Pray for decision makers, organisations on the frontline and for those who are suffering without hope. Pray for those who are pushing destructive legislation.
  8. Help to relieve physical and psychological suffering in your community.

Brian Johnson wrote in Death as a Salesman:

In contemplating assisted suicide, society is considering a dramat­ic departure from the values that teach us to respect and protect the vulnerable and the innocent. But remember that society isn’t government officials; society is really just normal people like you and me. As you evaluate assisted suicide, consider carefully, for lives are at stake. Ultimately, the life you save may even be your own.18


  1. ^ Richmond, D.E., ‘Are withdrawal of thera­peutic support and administering lethal sub­stances ethically equivalent?’, viewed on 17 December 2014, nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Why-With-drawal-of-Life-Support-is-Not-Equivalent-to-Euthanasia.pdf
  2. ^ ‘Draft for consultation: End of Life Choice Bill’, viewed on 17 December 2014, http://www.
  3. ^ Chambaere, K., Bilsen, J. et al., ‘Physician-assist­ed death under the euthanasia law in Belgium: a population based survey’. CMAJ, vol. 182(9). First published 17 May 2010. Doi:10.1503/ cmaj.091876, viewed on 17 December 2014,
  4. ^ Smets, T., Bilsen, J. et al., ‘Reporting of eutha­nasia in medical practice in Flanders Belgium: Cross sectional analysis of reported and unre­ported cases’. BMJ 2010;341:c174. Published 5 October 2010. Viewed on 17 December 2014,
  5. ^ Davidson, H., ‘Philip Nitschke tribunal: a clini­cal, jarring discussion on rational suicide’. The Guardian, 18 November 2014, viewed on 17 December 2014, australia-news/2014/nov/18/philip-nitschke-tri-bunal-hearing-is-there-such-a-thing-as-ratio-nal-suicide.
  6. ^ Heaton, T., ‘Groups oppose ‘legal homicide’ ’. Manawatu Standard, 13 November 2014, viewed on 17 December 2014, http://www. Groups-oppose-legal-homicide
  7. ^ Russell, P. ‘New Zealand euthanasia campaign­er wants child euthanasia’. Viewed on 19 December 2014, blog/1918-new-zealand-euthanasia-campaign­er-wants-child-euthanasia.html
  8. ^ Personal interviews, September 2014.
  9. ^ Price, A., Lee, W. et al., ‘Prevalence, course and associations of desire for hastened death in a UK palliative population: a cross-sectional study’. BMJ Support Palliat Care 2011;1:140­ 148 doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2011-000011, Viewed on 17 December 2014, http://spcare.­2011-000011.full
  10. ^ Dunne, P. ‘Interview with Dr Paul Dunne on euthanasia and assisted suicide’, Video, 1.42 – 3.10, viewed on 17 December 2014, medical%20viewpoints%20-%20Dunne.html
  11. ^ Meuhlenberg, B. ‘Palliative care versus eutha­nasia’. Viewed on 17 December 2014, http://­care-versus-euthanasia/
  12. ^ Oregon Public Health Division. ‘Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act-2013’. Viewed on 17 De­cember 2014, athwithDignityAct/Documents/year16.pdf
  13. ^ ‘In Christ Alone’, Getty and Townend, King-sway Music, 2001.
  14. ^ To sign up or ask questions, please e-mail or write to PO Box 47773, Ponsonby, Auckland, 1144.
  15. ^ See­siaFreeNZ
  16. ^ See
  17. ^ See­member/ or write to PO Box 47773, Ponsonby, Auckland, 1144.
  18. ^ Johnson, B. P. Death as a salesman: What’s wrong with assisted suicide. 2nd ed. New Regency Pub, Sacramento, 1998, p. IX.
    Renée Joubert is the executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, a nationwide secular organisation leading the campaign against the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in NZ. She welcomes your questions and comments. More information can be found at or by contacting her at

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