End of Life Issues

Discover More about Complex End of Life Ethics

Curated by Joe Carter

Death and Dying

When we say that someone is dying, we mean that they have entered the dying process. The dying process is the final stage of the living process, since those who are in the process of dying are still in the process of living. Those who are dying must therefore be treated with the same respect and consideration due to all living human beings.

In the following video, Dr. Scott Rae and Dr. Darrell Bock discuss the ethics of end-of-life issues.

Review Questions
  1. What does the whole story of the Bible teach us about the body, life, and death?
  2. What is the difference between termination of life support and physician assisted suicide? Rae make a distinction between termination of care and termination of treatment. How do you understand his distinction?
  3. What is the distinction between physician assisted suicide and euthanasia?
  4. What is the current legal status of physician assisted suicide in the U.S.?
  5. How does the Bible’s teaching regarding the vulnerable affect how we think about these issues?
Key Terms and Definitions

Dying or dying process — An impaired condition that eventually leads to death. May be either reversible (i.e., health can potentially be restored through medical intervention) or irreversible (i.e., no medical intervention can change the process). A person is considered “terminal” when they have entered an irreversible dying process.

Brain death – The irreversible loss of all functions of the brain, which usually determines that a person is dead both legally (i.e., for the purposes of the law) and clinically (i.e., for the purposes of medicine).

Advance directive — A type of legal document that outlines for physicians and other medical staff a person’s wishes about their health care and treatment in case of incapacitation. Sometimes known as a “living will.”


Suicide is the act of purposely ending one’s own life. From a Christian perspective, suicide is sinful and wrong because it is a sin against God as the creator and sustainer of life. It rejects God’s sovereignty and usurps his prerogative in regard to life and death (cf. Job 12:10).

Watch the following video on suicide by The Gospel Coalition.

Review Questions
  1. What statistic in the video stood out to you the most?
  2. Do you know someone who has attempted or committed suicide? Do you know anyone who has been affected by a suicide of a family member or friend?
  3. What are the steps you should take if you know of someone who may be considering suicide?
Key Terms and Definitions

Suicide — The act of purposely ending one’s own life.

Suicidal ideation — Any self-reported thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior.

Suicide attempt — A self-inflicted, potentially injurious behavior with a nonfatal outcome. A suicidal gesture a feigned attempt at taking one’s life, often gambling their lives that they will be found in time and that the discoverer will save them.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

In the following video, Wesley J. Smith discusses the topic of physician-assisted suicide and the current push for legalization. Smith beautifully explains, with historical and contemporary examples, why this is a terrible idea that only leads to the killing of vulnerable people whom we owe love, treatment, and hope.

Review Questions
  1. Why is it okay to euthanize an animal but not a person?
  2. How has culture’s view of suffering changed over time?
  3. What is the Christian view of suffering?
  4. Is this issue exclusively a religious issue?
Key Terms and Definitions

Euthanasia — The intentional taking of a human life for the purpose of relieving pain or suffering. Euthanasia may be either voluntary (i.e., at the request of and with the consent of the individual who will die) or involuntary (i.e., request and/or consent was not given), and either passive (i.e., removing medical intervention that results in the person entering the dying process) or active (i.e., causing death through direct action or intervention, such as providing a lethal dose of medication).

Physician-Assisted Suicide — A type of voluntary passive euthanasia in which a doctor provides information about how to commit suicide or proscribes means that allow the patient to terminate their own life.

Right-to-Die — The concept and political movement that claims individuals have the right to terminate their own lives either through suicide or euthanasia.

  • Discovery Institute – The War on Humans