Biblical vision

May a patient be refused a particular treatment by stopping or not starting it? The Bible does not give a direct answer to this. We do know that a decision is allowed, if it is in agreement with God's commandments. One of those commandments – the sixth commandment – says that a person's life is worthy of preservation. God made man in His image and likeness. So we may not kill anyone or help to kill anyone. On the other hand the fact that God is the Creator of life also means that we should not want to prolong life at all costs with all possible medical-technical possibilities. It is a matter of Christian mercy that people may also die, without having tried all medical possibilities.

To briefly summarise: it should never be killing and it must always be merciful, or: life and well-being.

In daily practice we sometimes come across situations in which it is difficult to define life's value, for instance surrounding a battered, terminal life. This can give rise to an internal conflict, because we are more influenced (often unconsciously) by the ‘quality of life’ school of thought than we admit to.

When considering the quality of life, it is a good thing to be conscious of the two sides attached to this. First of all there must of course be enough attention for the quality of life. That is important, and that is also what the health care sector is primarily focused on. However, once this is no longer ‘optimal’, but is simply losing more and more ‘quality’, it may also not be so that life is considered not worth living (devoid of quality).

Not all inconvenience and suffering can or should be excluded.
On the other hand, it should also be realised that attempting at all costs to postpone death (with the use of all available resources, and which are not always beneficial), is a misconception of reality. By fully implementing treatment, a person can be refused valuable and peaceful time to prepare himself for death. God has called us to life, and in His time He will also call us out of life.

So in short, it is about a balance between not denying and giving up a (difficult) life on the one hand and not denying and postponing death on the other hand. It demands Christian wisdom, mercy and sensitivity to find one's way through this.