Medical Ethics

Recent events have caused Christians to reconsider what they would do when a loved one is close to death. This has led to the study of medical ethics. “What would I do if … ?” Seeking to answer those questions, our high school Bible class studied the comments made by Dave Lingle in “Choosing life in the face of death“. This led to an interesting conversation. Although the article gives biblical principles and good suggestions as to how to care for a dying individual, it does not answer all the questions we had.

  1. What if your loved one is pronounced brain dead? Is it appropriate to remove life support?
  2. Was it wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube and water?
  3. What if your loved one has brain cancer and is convulsing in the hospital bed? Would it be appropriate to end the suffering?

When it comes down to it, each Christian has to know what the Bible says about life and death before they can make the right decision. While you may have a strong opinion about what should be done in each case, be sure that your answer is a reflection of what God has said in the Bible.

23 thoughts on “Medical Ethics

  1. Ashley

    Principles:
    1. God is the Creator and Sustainer of Life (Gen. 1:26)
    2. Death is an enemy (I Cor. 15:26)
    3. Death is inevitable
    4. “Death with dignity” is a misnomer

    Situation 1:
    If my loved one is pronounced brain dead, I would probably remove the life support. First, brain dead implies that the body can’t function on its own (breathing, heart pumping) because the brain controls all these functions. The life support is artificially maintaining this person’s life. The nutrition and hydration are not benefitting the individual. Besides, death has already occurred.

    Situation 2:
    Yes, it was wrong to for Terri Schiavo’s husband to request the doctors to remove her feeding tube and water. God sustains life. Just because Mr. Schiavo viewed his wife as a burden does not justify his decision. She was benefitting from these supplements. Essentially, Mr. Shiavo committed murder. God does not condone murder (see the laws given in Exodus about murder).

    Situation 3:
    I would not end the suffering by killing him. That is murder and the Bible clearly states in Ex. 20:13 that I am not permitted to murder. However, I would request the doctors and nurses to administer strong pain killers so the suffering might be alleviated. I would have to trust God to take my loved one’s life in His timing and His way, whether it be through becoming brain dead or some other means (heart attack, suffocation, etc.)
    Essentially, everyone’s opinions are shaped around their definition of death. For Christians, their definition needs to meet Scripture guidelines, and we should not kill just to rid ourselves of a burden.

  2. Ryan

    1) What if your loved one is pronounced brain dead? Is it appropriate to remove life support?
    -Principle: is if the person is brain dead and is no longer able to carry out respiratory and cirulatory functions under his or her own power than it is appropraite to remove life support.

    2) Was it wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube and water?

    -Priciple: If the person is still capable to carry out circulatory and respiratorty capacities than they should be left alive. Also the reason he chose to take out the food was she was an inconvenience to him. That’s MURDER- Ex. 20:13 CLEARLY states that murder is wrong

    1) What if your loved one has brain cancer and is convulsing in the hospital bed? Would it be appropriate to end the suffering?

    -Priciple: Man is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and if one has to put someone “out of his suffering” he would have to kill someone that is made in God’s image. Plus he killed them back to Ex. 20:13 Murder is sin.

  3. jordan

    Biblical Principles:
    1) Thou shalt not murder
    (Gen. 20:13)

    2)Created in God’s image
    (Gen. 1:26)

    3) Body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
    (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

    Situation 1:
    If your loved one is pronounced brain dead, you should first make sure that the doctor’s are absolutely correct in determining that. If he is, you should terminate life support. If it’s true, then his spirit is gone. The Bible says that to be absent from the body is to be with God. Any efforts to prolong his life from that point are merely futile attempts to sustain a spiritless body.

    Situation 2:
    Terry Schiavo’s husband was completely wrong in taking away her feeding tube and water. Although she was confined to bed and unable to do anything for herself, she was still a living human being and precious in God’s sight. As long as she was alive and could benefit from treatment, she should have been given as much food and water as she needed. Life is precious to God, not something to be snatched from someone at will.

    Situation 3:
    The situation with brain cancer is a hard one. Watching your loved one’s pain, you would want to do anything you could to make the pain go away. However, if he has a chance of surviving it is not right to take away that chance. In this situation, the best thing to do would be to trust God to do what is right. Give your loved one medicine to ease the suffering,stay with them, and pray for them, but don’t immediately make the choice to end their life. When someone dies, he loses the opportunity to either be of further service to God or receive salvation; therefore, death is not always the best answer. Yes, the choice is difficult and will vary with different people and different circumstances, but the principle of God-given life remains the same: every one of us is precious in God’s sight.

  4. Nadine

    Priciples:
    1. we are to help sustain life.
    2. God is creator and sustainer of life. Gen. 1:1
    3. we are to trust God to do what he deams best.
    Issues:
    1. What does “brain dead” mean. Is their brain stem still working, or is it dead too. If their brain stem is still working then they are still alive. But if their brain stem isn’t working then we have to realize that they are already “absent from the body” so no amount of medical help can save them.
    2. Terri Schiavo’s brain was still funcioning so what he did was murder. She was still alive. Terri Schiavo’s husband should have kept her alive and not unplugged her food supply. He starved her to death. Exodus 20 says “thou shalt not murder.”
    3. No, if my loved ones were dieing I am supposed to watch over them. I should take care of them. That is inhumane to pracitically murder them to stop their suffering. They are obviously still alive so we should keep them alive. My grandfather had 2 or 3 heartattacks, needed respiratory help, and needed a hip replacement. He was too old to have a hip replacement though, so he had shock therapy to try to eliviate the pain. All along this journey my uncle Allen and aunt Diane stayed by him. He then slowly deteriorated and then was put in ICU. He then became unresponsive, but all my aunts and uncles and the doctors tried their best to keep him alive. He then died after we were told that there was nothing we could do. But the point is, my aunt Diane could have pulled his breathing tubes and let him die in his sleep so he wouldn’t have any more pain, but she didn’t. We should so do our best to sustain the life of our loved ones for as long as we can. But we have to realize that God is the final authority.

  5. Yugo

    1.What if your loved one is pronounced brain dead? Is it appropriate to remove life support?
    As a priciple, if the brain activity ceases to function on its own, incuding the brain stem, then that person is considered dead. If the person in question has brain damage that is beyond recovery, then it would be appropraite to remove that person from life support, since they would no longer benefit from it.

    2.Was it wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube and water?Since Terry Schiavo was aware of her surroundings and could interact with those arongd her, it is clear that she was NOT brain dead, and to end her life would be an act of selfishness and cruelty. Every human is made in the image of God, even those with sever physical ailments (Gen. 1:26).

    3.What if your loved one has brain cancer and is convulsing in the hospital bed? Would it be appropriate to end the suffering?
    According to Scriptures, no. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgement.” The time of our death God’s responsibility, and his alone. We have no right to interfere with plans. If God intends for us to die in a certain way, we may try to make it as easy as possible, but when all means of ameliorating suffering have failed, then the rest is no longer up to us.

  6. Stephanie

    The principles we talked about were: Thou shalt not kill (Ex. 20:16), Our bodies are the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and suicide is always looked down upon in scripture.
    1) If your loved one is pronounced brain dead, it would be appropriate
    to remove life support because the body functions really don’t serve a purpose now. It would be difficult to do, but it would be the best thing to do in a tough situation like that.
    2)It was wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube and water because Terry was still alert an able to communicate in her own ways. She was still able to think and have feeling like anyone else.Terry’s husband did this becasue he was only concerned about himself and didn’t want to deal with Terry anymore because of her disabillities. God is the one to decide when the person’s time to go is, not man.
    3) In this case, it would not be appropriate to end the suffering. What would be appropriate would be to do as much as possible to alleviate the convulsions by giving the loved one sedatives. Our bodies are the temple of God and we need to to as much as possible to take care of our bodies; however, we do not have the auhority to decide when we are to end our lives.

  7. Katrina

    1) God is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of life.
    2) Death is an inescapable reality we all face.
    3)”Death with dignity” is a misnomer.

    I think that it would be alright because if God would have wanted them alive, He would have kept them that way and if they are braindead, they practically are dead because the brain controls the body. If the brain is dead, then the whole body/person is dead.
    I would pray that God would heal them, but mostly that God’s Will would be done, even if it meant letting them go.

    It was wrong, I think, to remove them because she was still alive. She could still breathe and communicate on her own. Therefore, she was still living, so he murdered her.

    If someone I loved had brain cancer and was convulsing, I would just trust God for a miracle. If the person was still alive and was able to somewhat communicate, eat, drink, and basically live without being hooked up to a bunch of machines, I wouldn’t try to end it. I would trust God because everything is in His hands, so if He wants her/him to still live, then I wouldn’t try to end it. God let that happen for a reason and I’m not going to stand in the way of what God wants. If God wanted this person to die, then He would have killed them already. I would keep them alive as long as possible until they were totally brain dead. I would just put it on God’s hands.

  8. shannon

    1.God is in control and he created all things in his image Gen 1:1
    2. thou shalt not murder Ex20:13

    1.If someone is pronounced brain dead they are already dead. It really won’t help them if we leave them on a feeding tube or anything else. There body is already not functioning so it is not wrong to take them off of the breathing tube because they are already dead.

    2. I think it was wrong because she could still function on her own.God could have still performed a miracle and let her out of it. She could of come out of it at any time.

    3.I think the first thing you need to do is pray about it. God will show you what to do. I think you should keep them alive because as in the other case God can preform a miracle and bring them out of it.It also depends on how long they have been in the state if it has been a long time it could be appropriate.But in most cases it would not be right to because it is murder and usally if they are in that condition they will not live long any ways.

  9. Lizy

    1)Brain dead can be defined several different ways. First, if refering to brain dead as having no brain stem, then the loved ones soul is allready in heaven or hell.In this case the breathing machine,pace maker, exc… are not profiting the body because the soul is gone. Therefore, they should be removed because life can never come back to that body; the person (soul) is gone. Next, brain dead can mean no brain action. In this case the person can just be in a coma and there is the possiblity of them coming out of the coma. The life support should be sustained because it is benfiting the person.
    All medical treatment should have the purpose of benfiting the patient.

    2) I believe it was wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove the feeding tube and water. She still had brain activity and her heart and lungs would work on their own. Compare this situation to a baby. If you don’t give a baby food and water he will starve because he is unable to take care of himself. Terry Schiavo was unable to take care of herself and needed someone to feed her just like a baby. It would be consider murder if you didn’t feed your baby just like it should be considered murder if you don’t feed an adult with the same abilities. Therefore, it was wrong for her husband to murder her(Exodus 20:13)

    3) Having a loved one go though so much suffering would be a very hard situation to be in. But even in this case it would not be appropiate to end their suffering. All medical treatment should have the purpose of sustaining life. Ending their suffering would be kiling them which is murder (exodus 20:13)Leave the matter in God’s hand.

  10. Samantha

    1.God is the soveriegn giver and sustainer of life.
    2. “Death with dignity” is a misnomer
    3. We should try to sustain life if possible.
    4. Death is an inescapable reality we all face.
    5. Man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
    6. Thou shalt not murder (Exodus 20).

    I think it is appropriate to remove life support if a loved one is pronounced brain dead and cannot breathe on his or her own. If they are relying on machines to breathe for them, they are really dead. They have no life in them to be sustained, and we should let them off life support.

    I think it was wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her from life support. She was breathing on her own and they basically starved her to death. She was obviously still alive and should not have been removed form her feeding tube. I believe it goes against the principle that we need to sustain life if possible. Her husband did not sustain her life but ended it in an aweful way.

    I don’t think it would ever be appropriate to end the life of a loved one who has cancer. I think they can be comforted and put on strong pain meds to help with the pain. I think we should concentrate on pain management without killing the person. They can be put in a drug induced coma without dying. This will stop their pain without taking their life. I believe the best thing to do in this difficult situation is to sustain life as long as possible.

  11. Ashley

    Sorry! I put the wrong principles down!
    They should be:
    1. Christian’s bodies are the temple of God (I Cor. 6:19-20)
    2. We are created in God’s image(Gen. 1:26)
    3. Murder is wrong (Ex. 20:13

  12. michael dunn

    Biblical Principles
    1.Gen. 1:26 – God is the creator and sustainer of life
    2.Exodus 4:16 – thou shalt not murder
    3.II orinthians 5 – God is to decide when and how life should end

    what if your loved one is pronounced dead? – if they are pronounced dead and there is no brain activity going on, then there really is no reason to keep them alive bc they really arent attached mentally to theri body any more.

    was it wrong for terry schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube? – yes, bc it really wasnt his choice; all he had to do was let her parents take care of her rather than just ending her life so that she was “out of the way.” she was able to tell what was going on b/c she would show some emotions on her face, and it is not our place to take life b/c God gives it and He should be able to decide when to end it.

    what if your loved one has cancer and is convulsing in the hospital bed? – if the doctor says that there is absolutely no way to give relief to their suffering, then you should pray about it and ask God to heal them. if He doesnt then ask Him to give you peace about asking the doctor to end the person’s pain bc if they cant be healed then they are just going to suffer untill they eventually die from the pain anyways. and, if they know the Lord as their Savior, then you know that you will see them again some day.

  13. Grace

    The principles we talked about were: 1. Thou shalt not murder
    2.We are made in God’s image therefore “pulling the plug” is like killing a part of God 3. God is soveriegn.

    If one of my loved ones were to be pronounced brain dead i would need to find out what type of brain dead they are. If their brain stem does not work any more and they are not able to breathe on their own then i would say i would remove life support. This is because the Bible says those who are absent in the body are with the Lord and i consider that persons soul to be gone because they are not able to perform the basic functions to sustain life by thereself.
    I think that Mr. Schiavo’s decision to remove the feeding tube and water was wrong. THis is because she was still able to pump blood and breath on her own.
    Lastly, if one of my relatives had brain cancer and was convulsing in the hospital bed i would not kill them because in Exodus 20 it says “thou shalt not kill”.Also God could heal them. I would just need to trust God in the situation.
    He has it planned out if the person is going to live or not.

  14. Kelsey

    Biblical principles:
    1. We were created in God’s image.

    If one of my relatives were pronounced brain dead and I had to decide if I wanted to take them off of life support then I wouldn’t. The one reason I would keep them on is the person was not pronounced brain stem dead, just brain dead. And, that loved one still has a chance at getting through the situation alive and being able to do things on their own again. With God all things are possible.

    I think in the case with Terry Schiavo it was wrong of her husband to remove her feeding tube and water. Was Terry Schiavo pronounced brain dead? Or was she brain stem dead? Because once again, if she was pronounced brain stem dead then there is nothing else you can do for that person.

    If my loved one was convulsing in a hospital bed and the doctors were trying to convince me to stop their suffering by ending their life I wouldn’t do it because it was obviously the Lord’s will to have them in that situation. And, if the Lord didn’t want them to be in a situation like that then He would end their life on His own without any medical help.

    The Lord is in control of all things and it shouldn’t be our decison to end someone’s life, it should be the Lord’s. There also is the chance that a miracle might happen and He could heal them. We don’t know what will happen, but everything is in His control.

  15. Joy

    Priciple
    1. Man is created in God’s Image (Gen. 1-2)
    2. You can not murder (Ex. 20:13)
    3. Your body is the temple of God(I Cor. 15:10?)

    Situation
    1. If the person is pronounced brain dead and his brain is not performing either higher or lower brain functions (another words none of his brain or brainstem is working) then the person is dead and in heaven or hell. So taking him off of life support is not murder, amd leaving him on life support is just like keeping a car running but no one is in it to drive or use it.
    2.In Terry Schiavo’s case her brain was still working. For exmple she could breath on her own and keep her own heart pumping. So she wasn’t dead and to deny her temple food was murder.
    3. If a person has brain cancer, they’re still alive for the time and their life should be protected and provided for until they die because they are created in the image of God. And no human has the right to take life of another human.

  16. Yugo

    1. “Thou shalt not kil”(Ex. 20:13)
    2. We are created in the image of God(Gen. 1:26)
    3. Our goal in medical procedures is to preserve and sustian life(2 Cor. 10:19-20)
    (see other comment for completion)

  17. natalie

    The three principles are:
    1. Thou shalt not kill.(Ex.20)
    2. We are made in the image of God (ICor.6)
    3. Our bodies are the temple of God. (ICor.)

    1. Is the body able to sustain life on it’s own? Is the brainstem dead making the brainwaves undetectable? One must base their desicion on ending the individual’s life support on these questions. If one can conclud that the individual is alive, than it is commiting murder to end a person’s life before the Father calls them home.

    2.Yes, it was wrong for him to end Terri’s life. She was clearly able to respond to the actions around her. It was obvious that her soul had not departed from her body. Her husband let the hospital starve her to death even though her parents begged him not to. He was seeing another woman at the time and saw ending her life as convient for him to go on with his life. What he did cannot even be considered “mercy killing”, it was murder.

    3.If my loved one had brain cancer, I would pray that God would heal them and end their suffering. I would never take the situation into my own hands. “Trudt the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all the might and lean not unto thy own understanding.”

  18. Thomas the blogger

    Biblical Principles:
    1. Exodus 20:13-Thou shalt not kill
    2. I Samuel 23:33- It is wrong to end your life through suiside
    3. gen 1:26-

    What if your loved one is pronounced brain dead?
    If your loved one is prounced brain dead that means that all cortex functions have ceased. If this is the case, it would be “ok” to take this loved one off of life support. The bible says “absent from the body present with the Lord.”
    Was it wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube and water?
    I beleive that it was WRONG. Mrs. Schiavo was breathing and slightly moving on her own, but was not able to feed herself or do most/any basic human upkeep. Exodus says (in the 10 commandments)”Thou shall not murder.” She was still showing basic signs of life. By her husband with holding food and water he murdered her. She did not die becasue of physical problems or brain damage. She died from starvation and dehydration.
    What if your loved one has brain cancer and is convulsing in the hospital bed? Would it be appropriate to end the suffering?
    Again, this comes down to the issue of murder otr not murder. The Bilbe explicitly says “thou shalt murder” If your loved one is suffering, they must rely on the Lord to get through the pain.

  19. anonymous

    principles:
    1. we are created in God’s image (gen. 1:26)
    2. our bodies are temples (I cor. 6:19-20)
    3. Murder is a sin (ex. 20:13)

    Questions:

    1. no it is not appropriate to remove life support. the vital signs are still working even though they are being run by a machine. so if a person pulls the life support the Bible still says that that is killing. because death is the separtion of the sould from the body. the soul of the person is still with them until the body completely stops working.

    2. yes, it was wrong for terry schiavo’s husband to remove the feeding tube along with her water. first, he ended her life when he did that. second, he had alterior motives for removing the feeding tube and water (1- he had another relationship with another woman; 2- he wanted the money that came along with her death). third, terry still had signs that she was “with it.” she could respond to what people told her and did to her. so, her husband removing the feeding tube and water was killing her!

    3. no, it would not be appropriate to end the suffering. obviously, the person is still alive and acting so if you ended their suffering, that would be killing them.

    so, all of these would be violating the commandment in exodus 20:13.

  20. J.P.

    I think that human beings are created in the image of God(Gen 1:26) and that if we take human life, we are taking away from God’s most treasured part of creation. I also believe that all humans, including disabled ones, are precious to Him

  21. Alyssa

    Principles:

    1. Thou shalt not murder (Exodus 20:13)
    2. We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26)
    3. Our bodies are a temple of God (I Corinthians 6:19,20)

    –Is it appropriate to remove life support if someone is brain dead?–There is no doubt that this would be a hard decision for anyone to make. But I believe that if someone cannot breathe on his own, his heart cannot work on its own, he’s not capable of responding to anything, ten he is dead. The lifesupport is merely just making him ‘look’ alive. I don’t think it’s murder to remove lifesupport. As I say that though, there have been cases of people ‘awakening’ out of their state and living again. The question is “How long do I wait?” The answer is to rely on God and do what you think is His will. Any decision would be a hard one to make.
    –Was it wrong for Terry Schiavo’s husband to remove her feeding tube?– Well, let’s first look at motive: He thought basically that his wife was an inconvenience. He couldn’t ‘get on’ with his own life. Even though he did by having kids with another woman. Marriage vows say “Till death do us part.” He obviously did not know what that truly meant. Another thing to look at is the true state of Terry Shiavo. There were reports of her responding to different things. Wouldn’t that indicate brain activity? She was breathing on her own and her heart was working by itself too. This woman was alive! Yes, she was very handicapped, but she is still a person who is created in God’s image. You don’t just give up on the person and make her suffer by removing the feeding tube. Terry Shiavo’s husband was a selfish man for doing this and I believe that he committed murder.

    –Would it be appropriate to end the suffering of someone with brain cancer, who is convulsing in his hospital bed?– Absolutely no. Brain cancer doesn’t mean that the person is dead. You don’t just end the life of someone who has a medical problem with him. God puts trials into each of our lives that we have to go through to grow closer to him. Brain cancer is one of those trials. Yes, the person will convulse and be in pain. But do you kill someone who is in pain after a surgery, or even during other types of cancer? No. Yes it is extremely hard to see a loved one convulsing. And the thought to end this person’s suffering would be that of many of us. But who has responsibility to dictate that someone dies? Only God is the giver and taker of life. There are many cases where people have had brain cancer and have been cured of it. Don’t give up. Keep trusting God to help that loved one. God can do anything!

  22. J.P.

    I believe that since God is the creator and sustainer of all life(Gen. 1:26), and that He created human beings in His image, ending the life of a human being, even if they are disabled, is destroying a part of God’s most precious part of creation. Also, I believe that death is an inevitability that everyone faces. The myth “die with dignity” does not exist. And finally, death is not something that we should look forward to. It is an enemy(1 Cor.15:19). I think that when a person is brain dead, they are truly dead, and it would not be morally wrong to end it for that individual.

  23. j.p.

    I believe that:
    1. God is the creator and sustainer of all life(Gen. 1:26).
    2. Death is something that everyone faces.
    3. “Death with dignity” is a misnomer.
    4. Death is an enemy(1 Cor. 15:19).
    If my love done was pronounced brain dead and unable to function in any way, I would favor a discision to end their life, since they could no longer benefit from the nutrition, hydration, circulation, and respiration that they are given. In the Terry Schiavo case, I do believe that it was wrong to unplug the life-support systems, because she could still respond to people with eye motions as well as recognizing friends and family when they came to visit. If the person I cared for was convulsing on the hospital bed because of brain cancer, I would opt to keep him/her alive for as long as the the doctors were able, even if there was no chance of recovery; if I asked them to end it, I would be murdering that individual.

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