Dr Peter Saunders is the author of The Solas Paper 2. He is a former general surgeon and presently Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship. Dr Saunders writes an overview of “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”, examining the relevant scripture, a history of the topic and a review of common objections. You can follow Dr Saunders blog here.
Euthanasia (being killed by a doctor) and assisted suicide (being helped to kill oneself) are both presently illegal in Britain but there is ongoing pressure to change the law on the basis of high profile cases which are being taken through the courts or being highlighted in the media. Many Christians today are confused about these issues and fall prey to emotive hard cases and false dichotomies.
Euthanasia or assisted suicide, or both, have now been legalised in a few European countries and US states. However, opposition to legalisation from faith groups (not just Christian), the medical profession and disabled people’s advocates has been strong and the key argument that changing the law would open up vulnerable people to exploitation and abuse has so far held sway with politicians around the world.
From ancient times doctors have sought moral guidelines both to guide members of the profession and to safeguard patients and they have opposed euthanasia. The Hippocratic Oath, which dates to 600 BC, states, “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest such counsel.”
The Declaration of Geneva was drafted after the Second World War in 1948 in response to the war crimes performed by German doctors. It says, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception.”
The International Code of Medical Ethics, written one year later, says that “a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death.”
The World Medical Association adopted the Statement of Marbella in 1992. This stipulated that “assisted suicide, like euthanasia is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession.” They reaffirmed it as recently as 2013.