So it hit the news recently in our country that a mother in Britain received permission from the courts to “allow her child to die.” Interestingly, the 12 year old died August 21 — this is old news. But as you read the stories (one is here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/begged-judge-end-sick-daughters-4509235), I trust you will be struck by the profoundly oxymoronic nature of the comments. The young lady (like Terri Shiavo in Florida years ago) was not dying, she was not in danger of dying, no one “allowed” her to die. The mother, with approval of the courts and assistance of medical professionals, decided to stop feeding her daughter food and water and it took two weeks for her to die. They decided to kill her . . . slowly . . . painfully . . . in ways we don’t allow for animals.
Then they salve their consciences (nationally, judicially, medically, and parentally), by saying they all just wanted her at peace or some such nonsense. They say she was no longer there — only a shell, that her life had no quality, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and it happens in our country too by the way — all the time.
Let’s be very clear about a couple of things. First, I think the suffering most involved were trying to end was their own. I get it. It’s hard to be a parent of a kid who is deeply disabled. I know this is true. But I also am convinced the parent usually suffers more than the child. Related to this is the dangerous idea that non-life is better than life. As a Christian, of course, I know this is true in the ultimate sense of life after this life. But just as we have no control over the beginning of our lives, we are not in a position to determine the ends of lives either. Suffering is not the worst thing — unless you believe that human beings are merely sophisticated animals and suffering is devoid of any possible meaning or worth. And this mother’s comments of remorse and guilt seem to bear out that even though she is “free” from her daughter, she is now sorry, but not sorry all at the same time.
Bottom line, it is important that we understand that for quite some time now, our broader culture thinks it’s better to be dead than disabled. And this is dangerous. Please read Joni Tada’s comments about this here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/uk-high-court-allows-mother-to-euthanize-severely-disabled-daughter-joni-eareckson-tada-says-judges-decision-terrifying-129344/.
Second, this is a place where the Christian church MUST speak into the culture with an unambiguous message: life is a gift — all of it, all the time. I am pretty convinced that the church fails at this point too often. And admittedly, even when the church speaks truth and offers help, many people simply would rather not be bothered by disability.
Let me put it this way: some of the comments the mother made seem to say she was tired, she was in over her head, she had no support system — basically, no community to help her. And this is sad; profoundly sad. I saw a movie recently (it was a long flight from Cairo!) called “A Long Way Down” (see here: (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458413/). There will be slight spoilers below, and of course, in nearly every movie there is sin that I am not endorsing by talking about the movie. Pierce Brosnan, the star, wants to jump off a tall building on New Year’s Eve (and his character’s life was admittedly a train wreck). But the plot line is that three other people also turn up on the same evening to jump (an older woman about Brosnan’s age, and two 20-somethings, guy and girl of course). They all talk each other out of it — until Valentine’s Day.
The twist is that as each life is considered we are surprised to learn that the older lady wanted to die because she was the sole care-giver for her adult son, a deeply disabled man. She was tired, worn out, no support. And, she reasoned, if she died, the government would take over and her son would get better care.
How sad I thought that the church was no where to be seen (I know, common in film). But I think this is true in the real life story of a mother starving her 12 year old to death (with court and public opinion approval!). No one wants to be bothered. “People like that” owe us the dignity (?!) of dying so we can get on with life.
But God mysteriously uses brokenness to remind us of our own profound neediness, and our need for a community, and our need for a Savior. And along the way, as we care for the broken — even in our own fallible, needy, brokenness — we are healed and strengthened. And we show our humanness most as we care for the most needy among us.
“Better off dead than disabled” is convenient, practical, easy, relieving, prudent, popular, plausible, . . . and diabolically smells like the smoke of hell.