After 66 years of marriage, Charlie and Francie Emerick chose to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law. Last April, with physician assistance, the couple took lethal doses together to end their own lives.
According to USA Today, the couple’s children made a 45-minute documentary to chronicle the final days of their parents. The three daughters released the documentary to the public with the intent of helping to “change the way people think about dying.” They say that the documentary “honors the Emericks’ belief that, if possible, everyone should have a say in when and how they die.”
As one of their daughters explained, the couple had always planned to manage their own deaths, if at all possible. Francie, before her suicide, pointed to her faith to explain her decision to end her own life. She said, “We have a faith that says life is not to be worshiped. It’s the quality of life that counts.”
Although the Bible certainly teaches that life is not to be worshiped, it says nothing to imply that “quality of life” determines the worth of existence. Rather, Scripture acknowledges God as the creator of life and as the only rightful terminator of life. And, as God declares in Genesis 9, humans are not to shed human blood, “for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:6).
This image of God and this status as God’s special handiwork makes human life sacred in and of itself. Human worth doesn’t depend on any standard of so-called “quality”—it comes from God and is present in every human life. Speaking to Christians specifically, New Testament passages even refer to their bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit,” saying, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Bible also gives us many real-life examples for why we should value life. Both the Old and New Testaments tell of historical characters who suffered greatly in life and yet endured for God’s glory despite their desire to die.
The Apostle Paul, for example, suffered from many tribulations during his ministry, including shipwreck, starvation, and imprisonment (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). As he says in Philippians, he wanted “to depart and be with Christ.” But he knew that he had to remain on earth to continue the work that God had given him (Philippians 1:21-26). Meanwhile, in the Old Testament, Job suffered from such great physical ailments that his wife advised him to “curse God and die.” But he rebuked her, calling her advice foolish and saying, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2).
As their examples show, opting out of life is no way to worship God. Rather, persevering through suffering as they did testifies to God’s sovereignty. And, beyond that, suffering people are a blessing to those who care for them because it gives the caretakers the chance to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are hurting. This is yet another way to bring glory to the Creator of all human life through the suffering that the world sees as undesirable.
As Stephen Drake, a research analyst for the group called Not Dead, pointed out in the USA Today article, the documentary of Charlie and Francie’s suicides is dangerous because of the “positive light” it puts on their deaths. “This romanticizes the idea of not just suicide, but a double suicide,” he said. He’s right. Not only that, but it promotes a view that reduces human worth to the measure of “quality,” as if humans are just products to be discarded once they start breaking down.
Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She freelances for BreakPoint.org and has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for ChristianAnswers.net/Spotlight and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at aworldofgrasspeople.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/shironosov
Publication date: March 13, 2018