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A Christian Response to Euthanasia
Session 3 Leader Outline
Welcome students and open with prayer. Be sure any new members of the group have the student handouts from previous sessions, especially Student Handout #5 "Principles Governing Medical Treatment Decisions."
As the first two sessions have pointed out so clearly, big changes are taking place in the world today: changes in government, changes in medicine and law, and changes in the opportunities for Christians to do something about world problems. With these changes comes the need to have some guidelines when making difficult end of life decisions.
Read the scripture: Psalm 139:13-16
Show Session 3 of the DVD (length 10 minutes 37 seconds)
Set the stage for this segment of the DVD introducing the case of Anna Hirth, which is similar to the case studies the students will be discussing later in the class. This segment includes a review of the principles governing treatment decisions and illustrates the Nazi connection to euthanasia and the slippery slope.
Discuss students reaction to the DVD remembering to allow ample time for role playing the following case studies.
Pass out Student Handout#5 "Principles Governing Medical Treatment Decisions" (from previous session)
Pass out Student Handout #6 "Case Studies."
We have provided you with four actual cases that were submitted by a registered nurse and are real life situations requiring ethical decision-making by health care providers and family. Separate the class into four groups giving each group a different case to review on their own. Have the groups use the "Principles Governing Medical Treatment Decisions" handout as a guideline in their decision making. Allow 10 minutes for each group to discuss among themselves what decisions they would have made and then give each group 5 minutes to share their decisions with the class. (May use only two or three of the case studies for discussion if time is limited).
As technology advances and becomes more complex Christians will need to be better informed and educated on the scripture and be encouraged to seek a deeper prayer life. This will enable them to make decisions that are faithful to the Lord. They should also be reminded that there is no greater joy than the peace and assurance of knowing that, whatever the future may hold, they are secure in the loving arms of the Savior.
A Christian Response to:
Case Study #One Grandma M.
The hospital personnel requested the nasogastric (NG) tube be removed and instead a more permanent tube (gastrostomy tube or G-tube) be surgically inserted. The G-tube is much more comfortable for the patient and requires only a minor surgical procedure to be placed through the abdomen directly to the stomach.
After much debate with the family the G-tube was inserted. After the NG tube was removed Grandma M. seemed much more relaxed. She was more alert and appeared to recognize family members.
Prior to surgery she would constantly move her head back and forth which rubbed off her hair. After the G-tube was placed her hair grew back and she no longer needed to be restrained. She made no attempts to remove the G-tube. Obviously, she had been uncomfortable with the NG tube, but that did not mean she wanted to be dehydrated and starved.
To remove food and water from her would have been an act of involuntary euthanasia. Grandma M. died quietly and comfortably in her sleep nine months later as a result of natural causes.
Case Study #Two Tiny Tom
The nurse in the pediatric unit refused to give the morphine. That night after midnight, Tommy was moved to the oncology (cancer) unit. The oncology nurse gave the morphine saying that this is common practice in their unit.
The pediatric nurse was extremely upset but didn’t know what to do. There were several Christian nurses who joined together and prayed for the child prior to the move to oncology.Tommy lived through the night and woke up the next morning. Following this, they decided to do the tracheotomy on him to improve his breathing ability. It is unknown what the final outcome was.
The parent’s decision to discontinue heroic treatment for Tommy was morally acceptable; however, morphine, in this case, was given to suppress respiration and cause death. It was not given to suppress pain. This constitutes attempted euthanasia.
The nurse who submitted this case said that if it happened again she would take the incident to the hospital administration or, if necessary, to the media, and not allow the child to be transferred to oncology.
Case Study #Three Grandma P.
Grandma P. died at home, comfortably, without a prolonged dying period. She received pain medication and oxygen but no other intervention of any kind. She died within 48 hours with her family around her.
This was the correct way to handle this case. Grandma P. was dying; she was in the last stages of death and no treatment was going to alter the dying process.
In the case of a dying person, every effort should be made to help the person die comfortably. If this “final stage” is prolonged, an intravenous tube might be inserted to provide the person with fluid and keep their fever in check. In any case, the patient should die from an illness or injury and not from intentional dehydration.
Case Study # Four Mr. A.
A subcommittee of the hospital ethic committee briefly met to discuss the situation. This included only the head of the committee, a physician and the hospital chaplain who was encouraging the wife in her decision to withdraw treatment. They decided it was ethical for the tube to be removed based upon Mr. A’s Durable Power of Attorney. The tube was scheduled to be removed the following day.
In this situation, Mr. A. was not imminently dying and although he had previously expressed he would not want treatment, he now was expressing the desire to live with treatment, which included the administration of food and water. On the other hand, Mrs. A. was the one who was seeing the treatment as overly burdensome, and had stated she wanted him to die quickly. It appeared that the well-being of Mrs. A. was being considered above the current requests of her husband and his desire to live.
In the final outcome, just before the scheduled removal of the feeding tube, Mrs. A. withdrew her request to stop feedings and arrangements were made to move Mr. A. to a convalescent facility with the continued administration of food and water via the gastrostomy feeding tube.
Conclusions: Our faith in the Lord comes through prayer, meditation and yes even suffering. It is on these battlegrounds that our faith and our belief are put into practice and where people struggle with their relationship with God, and are strengthened in the grace of God.
As Christians we are challenged to help each other through difficult times. As we live this reality, we begin to see those we love who are suffering, not as burdens to be eliminated, but as a personal invitation to love.
Share with the class that the next and final session will be covering ways to protect ourselves and those we love from euthanasia including what documents to sign.
Pray for the suffering and for those that may be in danger of euthanasia. Thank God for His protection upon their lives and His presence throughout all suffering.