News Item

Dr David Goodall, Euthanasia, and Suffering

Before taking his own life by euthanasia in Switzerland, Australian scientist Dr David Goodall declared that, as his age, he should “be free to choose the appropriate time” for his death.

He was 104.

There haven’t been many murmurs of discontent at that from the mainstream media or indeed most pro-euthanasia groups.

The ABC today published another uncritical report on his death. The story will be covered again on tonight’s Foreign Correspondent.

All the while the relentless push for euthanasia laws in Australia continues. Characteristically, Victoria was first cab off the rank last year with further pushes taking shape in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Federally (to affect the two Territories). The proponents never rest, with South Australia alone having rejected euthanasia 15 times.

Dr Goodall’s death is being used as a platform for euthanasia advocacy.

Because he was 104… Who would begrudge him the opportunity to die at that age?

In truth, the silence tells us everything. It tells us what Australians think of life. And yes, it tells us what Australians think of the elderly.

Nothing was wrong with Dr Goodall save for the fact that he was old.

So he killed himself.

And most are comfortable with that.

The reasons why are not hard to articulate, but none of them are nice.

Most obviously, we are fine with it because our hollowed-out, vacuous, post-modern worldview is so shallow that it cannot accommodate suffering. Worse – it can barely accommodate anything that does not bring pleasure.

A utilitarian and self-centred mindset has grown up in our culture. A mindset that says all that makes me feel negative must be purged and avoided, whilst all that makes me feel good must be embraced and over-indulged.

Hedonistic behaviours like over-consumption of alcohol, the dissipations of Netflix binge-sessions and porn, the search for social media affirmation, the shunning of costly personal friendships, the total rejection even of delayed gratification through abstinence…

These all show us that we cannot abide a negative feeling. And it is destroying us.

It has gotten so bad that we can barely handle being contradicted. That is why safe spaces exist. That is why we believe so readily in “hate speech” and vilification.

This is why we mollycoddle our children.

Worse – that is why the church is so thoroughly obsessed with positivity. Because we are shaped by our culture.

But it’s also why we struggle to answer the euthanasia question. If someone is suffering – even if it’s only the suffering of age, then who are we to deny them the opportunity to end that suffering? Is there even a moral case in our favour? Surely we are being monsters?

But God is not a utilitarian.

God uses the challenges and trials of life, in all its phases and seasons, to train us and to make us better.

In practical terms, we know that the rigours of discipline, self-control, delayed gratification, and endurance build character. If they are maintained through crises and hardships – or perhaps just an entire life on this earth, then even more so.

There is nothing quite like knowing someone who has met head-on with the most arduous of life’s challenges and come out the other side better for it.

In spiritual terms that truth is amplified. Scripture is clear – God intentionally leaves us in difficult circumstances because He loves us and He therefore wants to make us better. We are told not to despise, but to embrace the trials He sends, because of the fruit it will yield if we are trained by them.

The applicable scriptures are endless, but two come to mind:

but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-11)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If we continue our anti-suffering crusade, we face the prospect of eliminating one of life’s greatest goods. Not because suffering itself is good – if it were, we would have no hope that it will end – but because God has ordained that something which would otherwise be bad shall be used by Him to make us better.

Or maybe I should go further. It can and will be used by Him to prepare us for what comes after this life: “…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Perhaps that is the greatest tragedy of euthanasia. It enshrines the idea that death is the end, to be triggered by us when we feel sufficiently negative, to go, as Amanda Vanstone recently wrote, back where we came from – from nothing.

We are losing our ability to suffer, and it is destroying us.

We are degrading the lives of those we ultimately consider less valuable, including the elderly.

We have bought the lie that death is the end – a return to “nothing”.

If we rip off the band-aid that says, “thou shalt not kill” in such circumstances, we are asking for a myriad of troubles.

Those troubles – the “slippery slope” – are what I shall write about next week.

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