Hippocrates of Kos (460 – c. 370 BC), was physician in the Classical Greece era and is regarded as the father of of modern medicine. He is most often quoted as saying, “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”, however his greatest contribution to Western culture is undoubtedly the Hippocratic Oath. For centuries physicians around the world have been taking the oath… or a derivative of it. In the commitment to ‘first do no harm’ he specifically said, Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will get no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.
For hundreds of years the medical profession has adhered to the Hippocratic Oath but in one generation, through the decriminalization of abortion, they have already become the executioners of the unborn and ended 1.3 billion lives since 1980. View the abortion clock here http://www.numberofabortions.com/ It is disconcerting to say the least. In the US there is a $5000 fine for killing an unborn Bald Eagle egg and yet we slaughter children like they are a plague infecting the earth. There is something perverse about having the same hands that try to save lives also being responsible for taking them. When our first child was about to be born, we discovered that our obstetrician also preformed abortions, we quickly switched to a doctor that did not perform them. I can’t imagine why everyone would not do the same if they thought about it.
Last week the Supreme Court of Canada in an unanimous decision struck down our law preventing doctor assisted suicide. This was in stark contrast to their ruling in the Sue Rodriguez case in 1992 that upheld the law. Now the Canadian Parliament has 12 months to draft a new law that will allow doctors to help people take their own lives. I am profoundly disappointed. The fact that doctors would even be part of the equation is unconscionable. They are the ones who will be asked to administer the poison that would end another person’s life. Hippocrates would roll in his grave to see the modern medical profession move from being the preservers of life, to becoming the administers of death. Doctor Henry Morgentaler devoted his career completely to killing unborn children and we awarded him the Order of Canada. South of the border Doctor Jack Kervorkian spent his assisting the aged and infirm in taking their own lives. He was a hero to many and died at 83… of natural causes. Five US states already have doctor assisted death legislation in place. For the most part they allow terminally ill, mentally competent patients with less than six months to live to request a prescription for life-ending medication. Proponents suggest we follow suit. The next step after that can be seen in Belgium and the Netherlands that allow children to take their lives with their parents consent. I think it is a dangerous path. Where will it lead, where will it end? Will society start deciding who deserves to live and who doesn’t. Will the lives of the young and old, the infirm and disabled someday become at risk?
I think as Christians we need to rethink the pro-life position. Too many of us oppose abortion and euthanasia but are at the same time pro-capital punishment and pro-war. I feel that gives us a very weak basis from which we argue. The Old Testament is full of violence and death. I would not argue that point. But Jesus was the true example of pro-life. If people were dying, he healed them. If they were dead He raised them back to life. If someone was condemned to die (The woman caught in adultery) he pardoned them. I think it is impossible to imagine Jesus as anything but 100% pro- LIFE. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10
We need to establish a new baseline for the christian pro-life position. Proverbs 6:19 says (The Lord hates) hands that shed innocent blood. The unborn obviously fit in that category, but so do those who are suffering of disease or pain and just want to end it all. We can offer them compassion and care but it is not our place to play God and end their lives. I sat by the bedside of my older brother as he died. He was suffering from lymphoma cancer and was partially paralyzed from a broken neck. At the end of every day he would say Goodbye and hope it would be his last. He would be disappointed when he awoke the next day. On the other hand I would never have let anyone accelerate the process. The palliative care people did an amazing job of keeping him pain free and preventing him from choking to death on the contents of his own stomach since his digestive system had shut down. Amazingly he was mentally clear to the very end and though not easy, he had a relatively peaceful passing.
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance: Your books were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalms 139:16
My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Psalms 31:15
Hippocrates wasn’t even a Christian and he got it right 2400 years ago. Hip Hip Hippocrates!
Addendum: For the record this also means we should never be responsible for taking the lives of innocent people during wartime. The number of innocents that have died in the current War on Terror (or any war) should give everyone of us pause. And yes, I am familiar with St Augustine’s Just War theory. He tried to reconcile Christian pacifism with the world as it actually was; to bring together the pacifist teachings of Jesus Christ with the obligations of Roman citizens – including Christians – to fight for their country when required to. Augustine said that war was always the result of sin, and that war was also the remedy for sin. And if war was the remedy for sin, then war could sometimes be justifiable – but only if it was a remedy for sin. He stated that Christians did not have the right to defend themselves from violence, however they could use violence if it was necessary to defend the innocent against evil. That is a far cry from the hawkish modern position of many Christians on war today.