David Goodall died Thursday after a long battle with regret. He was 104. Goodall, the noted British scientist and proponent of assisted suicide took his own life under the medical guidance of the staff at Life Circle, an assisted suicide center in Switzerland.
Supporters of assisted suicide call what Goodall did, “dying with dignity.” They say that choosing to end one’s life under one’s own terms should be the right of those who are suffering from terminal illnesses and enduring severe pain. But there’s a problem. Goodall didn’t have a terminal illness. He was suffering from what a Washington Post article described as, “existential distress” rather than severe pain. According to the Post, it is this “existential distress” and not pain that is behind most assisted suicides. Put another way, most people who die by assisted suicide just don’t want to live anymore. It has more to do with the will to live than it does the level of pain.
It is here that critical thinkers will lean in and take a closer look at the so-called "dying with dignity" argument.
Millions of teenagers and young adults are suffering from what they would describe as, “existential distress.” They don’t want to live anymore either. So will those championing assisted suicide then celebrate the 16-year-old girl who chooses to end her life because her boyfriend broke up with her? Is that considered dying with dignity? And what about those who try to talk her off the ledge? Are they simply meddling in the business of an autonomous being?
Proponents of assisted suicide use autonomy to support their arguments in favor of “dying with dignity.” But as John Stott pointed out, “The notion of total human autonomy is a myth.” True freedom can only be found in living in harmony with the nature that has been gifted to us by our Creator, not by fighting against it. This is yet another reason why worldview matters. Those who reject the idea of creation merely see human beings as enlightened animals. Their value is found in what they can produce, or in this case, what they want.
The Christian worldview is much different. Our worth is found, not primarily in our ethnicity, health, or income but in the fact that we were created in the image of God. Every human being, from the child born with too many fingers on one hand and not enough on the other to the 104-year-old man facing the end of his life, has value.
Progressives present assisted suicide as a political issue. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission sees it differently. He describes this fascination with death as, “Part of an ongoing guerilla insurgency against the image of the Creator himself.” And as should be expected from anyone willing to engage in such a futile endeavor, death is embraced—even when it’s in the form of murder and suicide (Proverbs 8:35-36).
David Goodall said that he, “Deeply regrets living so long.” I’m sure that such a quote really warmed the hearts of Goodall’s family members who gathered around to send him off to the, ahem, medical care of those who would soon give him a lethal dose of Nembutal. Goodall claimed that, “One should be free to choose death when death is at an appropriate time.” Here we see the hubris that fuels the assisted suicide movement. Since when is it our responsibility to decide our time to die? And if Goodall is brave for doing it, why aren’t Progressives celebrating the suicide of the young adult who has decided that he doesn’t want to live anymore? Perhaps we should allow some time for this. Given the fascination that many Progressives have with killing human beings, whether they be unborn or aged and ill, I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before hanging oneself becomes the new dignified thing to do in their eyes.
In the world of assisted suicide, death is a natural thing that no one wants to endure. The best they can hope for is to go out on their own terms. Christians see things differently. They know that death is not natural but rather a result of the fall of man. And they know that their ultimate hope is not found in a doctor with a lethal dose of a sleeping drug but in a Sovereign Lord who has, “determined allotted periods" and conquered the grave.
David Goodall’s last meal was fish and chips. His last words were haunting.
“What are we waiting for?”
Christians are no strangers to the suffering that comes with aging and illness and they are quick to answer that Goodall's final question.
We are waiting for Jesus.
Rather than going out on our terms, we choose the greater joy of falling into his arms.