Killing Children Instead of Saving Them

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, June 6, 2019

Killing Children Instead of Saving Them

The tragedy of this story is almost beyond words. First, a child was raped. As a result of that horrific act, she suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia.

The tragedy did not end there.

She attempted to enlist the involvement of doctors for assisted suicide. While unclear to what degree they assisted, she wrote a “sad last post” on Instagram saying she would be dead soon, and then her death was officially announced by her sister. 

She was 17.

In legislation passed in 2001, the Netherlands (where the young girl lived) became the first country to legalize assisted suicide. Under the law, euthanasia by doctors is allowed in cases deemed as “hopeless and unbearable” suffering. As demonstrated in this case, it need not be merely physical. 

Under Dutch law, children as young as 12 may request euthanasia, but those between the ages of 12 and 16 must have parental consent. (In 2014, Belgium became the first country to legalize assisted suicide for children.)

The sixth commandment of the famed Ten Commandments says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NIV). The key word there is “murder.” It doesn’t say “You shall not kill,” but “You shall not murder.” There is a Hebrew word that could have been used for the more generic term “to kill”—the term used in this verse is laser sharp.

The sixth commandment speaks specifically about the deliberate, willful, premeditated taking of a human life out of hatred, anger, greed or self-centered convenience. The sixth commandment is not talking about the killing that takes place in war, in self-defense or even in capital punishment. Those are important discussions, and the Bible has a lot to say about them, but they’re not the focus of the sixth commandment. And the sixth commandment doesn’t speak to the killing of other creatures – such as animals – but of human beings.

And the reason is simple—it’s because life is sacred. Not just some lives, but every life. As Scripture says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV). The fact that each and every one of us was created in the image of God gives each and every one of us infinite worth and value.

Taking it upon ourselves to end a life is the ultimate act of defiance against God, for life is His and His alone to give and take. It doesn’t matter what the quality of life is for that person. It doesn’t matter what the cost of their life will be to society. It doesn’t matter how productive they are, smart they are, beautiful they are. It doesn’t matter whether we like them. All human beings have infinite worth because they are made in the image of God. And the taking of a life – any life – is showing contempt for God and His image. Life is sacred. It is not ours to do with as we please. Only God can end it or direct its ending. 

This includes suicide. 

We do not have the right to murder ourselves.

This includes euthanasia, or assisted suicide—usually performed because the person is old, in pain or terminally ill. The word euthanasia is from two Greek words—eu, that means “good” and thanatos, that means “death.” So the word literally means “good death.” Those who support euthanasia also use terms trying to make it sound like a good death, such as “mercy killing” and “death with dignity.”

The rationale is that individuals or family members have the right to end their own life or someone else’s life if they feel it seems unbearable.

To be clear, this isn’t the question of whether to use extraordinary means to extend the process of dying when there is no hope for extending life; what is often called “passive euthanasia.” What we are talking about is the direct killing of a patient because a disease may be terminal, or the withholding of assistance that would prolong life in a substantive way simply to avoid pain or difficulty.

And it is every bit as much the taking of a human life as any other form, because it’s not our life to take or our decision to make.

The news of the young girl’s choice, and how it may have been enabled under Dutch law, has shocked the world. This was a case where she didn’t need parents and doctors to help her kill herself; she needed parents and doctors to help her find emotional, psychological and spiritual healing.

As Pope Francis weighed in on the tragedy, “Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a defeat for all. We are called never to abandon those who are suffering, never giving up but caring and loving to restore hope.”


James Emery White


Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Anguished Dutch Teenager, Who Was Raped as a Child, Dies After Euthanasia Request,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2019, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.    

Killing Children Instead of Saving Them