Assisted suicide and the need for suffering

A look at death with dignity and the purpose of pain.

Breigha Sawyer charges readers to consider the importance of suffering in death, opposing the view of assisted suicide. | Courtesy of

Breigha Sawyer, Writer

In February, the California Legislature considered passing a bill that would grant terminally ill patients the right to seek prescription medication from a physician for a lethal dose of medicine that allows them to die peacefully, rather than suffer a painful death. There have been several debates on this issue of physician-assisted suicide, also known as “Death with Dignity,” with a strong division of public response. According to NPR, faith groups have voiced their concern for terminally ill patients who are not given the right to end their own life in a peaceful manner.


Peggy Rheault, a member of a Lutheran congregation near Sacramento, said he believes Jesus does not desire death and suffering.

“I don’t think Jesus would want us to suffer,” Rheault says. “I think he would agree with us. To me it’s not suicide — it’s help.”

She says death with dignity is compatible with Christian values, linking it to compassion, love and family, all of which coincide with Christian morality. Yet should this be seen as justice and human rights? Should Christians see this from a mere ethical standpoint or is there a deeper outlook at hand?


This debate relates to the idea of suffering, compassion and moral values. As Christians, these values are fundamental. However, according to Death with Dignity, the suffering takes place in a privileged society. This is a society that looks to highly developed scientific methods to ease pain and hardship in a developed, wealthy nation. With that being said, there is an overarching need to ease suffering and give rights to the underprivileged, rights they deserve as suffering human beings. Suffering exists for a reason. Yes, it is due to the fall of humanity to the pleasures of sin, but why terminal suffering? Why are we so afraid of it?


Christians are often asked, “If God exists, then why is there suffering in this world?” We struggle to find the correct words and say something in terms of faith and God’s justice, but do we really know why we suffer? Why does the patient with brain cancer feel so desperately alone and helpless and turns to lethal medicine to end the pain? This topic is heavy and controversial, but we can only look at biblical truth for the answer. God’s will and purpose is for his people to live in and love a helpless world, a world that turns to science and deadly medicine in the hopes of ending suffering. May we continue to learn about him and his truth and live out a life of hope. May we live like Job who suffered in anguish and learned that God is in control and he is not.


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