Updated: Jun 27
Did you hear about the woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease, who recently died by assisted
suicide in Canada. Headlines were created because of where the death took place: inside the sanctuary of her church.
In the article about this matter, Rev. Dawn Rolke, the minister of Churchill Park, told the
Christian Post that it was appropriate for one of their members to undergo assisted suicide in the church as it is “host and home to all the raggedness of our lives and to some of our significant life rituals: baptism, marriage, ordination, funeral or memorial services.”
“For us, it was perfectly natural to hold this service for Betty in our sanctuary because
death is a natural part of life and Betty had lived a good part of her adulthood in this faith community."
Euthanasia is the active painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and
painful disease or in an irreversible coma.
Assisted suicide usually refers to physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which is suicide
that is assisted by a physician or other healthcare provider. The physician's
assistance is usually limited to writing a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs.
Mercy Killing is a popular name given to euthanasia to imply that a premature death is
an act of compassion.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,
New Zealand, Spain and several states of Australia (New South Wales, Queensland,
South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia)
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in some countries, under certain circumstances,
including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, parts of the United States and parts of Australia. The
Constitutional Courts of Colombia, Germany and Italy legalized assisted suicide,
but their governments have not legislated or regulated the practice yet.
Let me ask you a question. When Does the Body Die? I want us to think about this
from both a medical as well as a spiritual perspective.
A Medical Definition from one of my references states, "Death is an irreversible
biologic event that consists of permanent cessation of the critical functions of the
organism as a whole.”
Coming from the field of medicine, three different terms are used to help define
A. Cognitive death is a condition where part of the brain, the cortex, is destroyed, due
to prolonged oxygen deprivation. In this condition, awareness of oneself and the
environment are lost, and the body is in a “persistent vegetative state.”
B. Brain death is a condition where no part of the brain functions. The brain stem and
cortex are irreversibly dead. This is what is termed “legally dead” from a medical /
C. Clinical death is a condition where the heart stops beating and breathing stops.
This is the time when a death certificate is issued.
This is death from a medical perspective, and I do not argue with these designations,
but I want us to think more deeply about this. What is death from a Biblical
Death, according to the Bible, is a departure of the soul / spirit complex from the body.
We see this evidenced in multiple places:
In the Old Testament, we see that Rachel’s soul departed her body when she died at the
birth of Benjamin.
18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called
his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.
In I Kings 17:21-22 we read about the prophet Elijah praying to God about a child who
had died, asking God to let the child’s soul come back into his body.
1 Kings 17:21–22
21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord,
and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. 22
And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him
again, and he revived.
In the book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira gave up the ghost (and died).
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great
fear came on all them that heard these things.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the
young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by
We see this same description of the nature of death in the life of Herod -
23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the
glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
Lastly, we see this biblical understanding of death in the life of Jesus
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he
bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
With this knowledge, come back next week and we will discover what the Bible says
about this matter of Euthanasia / Physician Assisted Suicide in greater detail and see how this teaching applies to us today.