A while ago I completed a three part series on the issue of marijuana and the Christian worldview. With some recent stories surfacing in the news, I feel compelled to add a few more comments on this vital and complicated issue.
At the beginning of this month, a young woman named Brittany Maynard chose to end her own life, and employ a physician to help her do it. She had been diagnosed with a devastating and incurable brain cancer, and decided she wanted to, in her words “die with dignity”. So she moved to the state of Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. She became the poster child for an organization she volunteered for, called Compassion and Choices, which is trying to legalize assisted suicide across the USA.
Brittany’s suicide is being hailed as a dignified and brave choice, even after the recent tragic suicide of Robin Williams. Williams’ choice to end his own suffering is seen as a sad but powerful opportunity to raise awareness so that hopefully further suicides will be prevented. Maynard’s suicide is something people support, defend, and even encourage. And even more alarming, while suffering patients who fight until the end used to be considered brave and dignified, now many consider suicide to instead be the brave and dignified choice. What disrespect to those who really are bravely fighting for life! It used to be precious. Not anymore. And even worse, assisted suicide requires a medical professional who swore an oath to “do no harm” to break that oath and end lives.
At this point, you may be thinking that I want to lament the fact that she didn’t give cannabis a fair shot at saving her life. But I don’t. Her treatment options are her choice. She did try some things early on that didn’t help, and then she said enough. I do understand that. It’s one thing to share exciting story after exciting story of people who cured their cancer with cannabis. That’s great, don’t get me wrong. But the reality is that it doesn’t always cure cancer. And when you are faced with these kinds of decisions, you are acutely aware of that.
Before I get to my point, two more comments need to be stated. First, of course, Maynard’s cancer diagnosis was truly tragic. That fact cannot be minimized. My heart breaks for her family and friends who have been digesting the news of her diagnosis since the beginning of the year, and are now grieving her loss. It’s a truly terrifying thing to face your own mortality, and worse, to know there is nothing but increasing suffering until death finally does take place. To a lesser degree, I’ve had to face something similar with my chronic illness diagnosis. There is no cure, only many difficult and painful medical appointments and the experience of my body degenerating until I can’t feed myself or wipe my own bottom. Hopefully it won’t be that bad, but it could well be, and I have to face that reality every day. And now I am faced with the possibility of cancer as well, which means potentially lots more pain and suffering. So I don’t take what she had to face lightly. It’s horrible and devastating, no matter how you look at it. It’s important to really take some time to consider the depth of that.
And secondly, there is the trajectory for our culture when assisted suicide is legal and encouraged. It’s a very short step from offering the option to forcing it on the suffering. In time, it will be decided that those who are suffering (whether the chronically ill, elderly, cancer patients, etc.) should be required to end their lives for the sake of ending the suffering and to relieve the pressure on caregivers and the medical system. In some ways that’s already happening. When a troubling ultrasound result is shared with expectant parents, most often they are encouraged, and even pressured into abortion. A few years ago, some friends of mine were considering moving to LA, and were looking into programs to support their daughter, who has Down Syndrome. They were shocked to find that there are no programs there because the Down’s birth rate is nearly zero. They’re all aborted. That is absolutely heinous. But it is how our culture increasingly sees life. It is no longer precious, but something to be tolerated so long as it seems bearable. Never mind the terrible pressure increasingly put on doctors who actually DO take their oath seriously. The time is coming quickly when Christians will no longer be able to practice medicine.
This increasing attitude also shows how much faith we put in the world of ever-changing science. We trust what scientists tell us about hour health, the environment, where we came from, and many other things, and often without question. But the truth is, science, as it is practiced today is not concrete, and is often far from accurate. Consider this case. There are many others just like it, and there would be even more if parents didn’t give in and abort their babies based on a doctor’s recommendation.
To the Point
What inspired me to write this post is the following CBC article. It’s an ongoing battle that thousands, if not millions are continuing to fight – just for the right to survive and/or have some quality of life. Marijuana legalization is happening in fits and starts across the USA. In some areas, it’s a free for all. In others, certain uses are allowed, but the most effective uses (such as oils, tinctures, etc.) are still illegal. The battle is still raging in Canada, where it is legal to buy very expensive dried bud in very small quantities for smoking or vaping only. Juicing, oils, butters, topical creams, etc. are still illegal, even if you have a medical license. This is a tremendously frustrating setback, that will hopefully be remedied in the next year or two. But in the meantime, real people, including children, are suffering.
Consider six year old Liam McKnight who suffers from Dravet Syndrome.
This is a severe, and often deadly form of epilepsy. You may remember the story of little Charlotte or “Charlie” Figi, featured on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary called “Weed”. She also suffers from Dravet Syndrome. Cannabis oil changed her life. It is giving her a chance at life.
Currently Liam’s parents have a license to possess cannabis for his medical treatment. But they’re only allowed to give it to him in the form of vaporizing or smoking. Can you imagine making your six year old smoke a joint? And worse, burning up a medicine that is of no use to him in that form, but has the ability to nearly completely stop his seizures if taken in a different, but illegal form? So they break the law every day to keep their child alive. When it comes to my own life, I can make the choice to sacrifice my health for the sake of obeying the law. But when you are a parent fighting to keep your child alive, that’s not such an easy decision.
My point is that this is a very serious issue. If life is really precious (and it is!), we as Christians need to be actively fighting for it. We need legalization for medical use, and proper standards just like with all medicine. If you watch the video in the CBC article, you will notice the CBC’s usual slant to demonize the Conservative party and give the Liberals and NDP their say so they look like heroes. As is so popular in the media, they are trying to make this a “pick a side” political issue so that you will vote for a specific party. But like most things in life, this is not that simple. I can’t in good conscience vote for socialist leadership that will strip me of my few remaining rights to freedom in Canada. But the Conservative party members do need to be educated to see that this specific issue isn’t a matter of “us vs. them”. It’s a matter of life, quality of life, and basic rights as human beings. I think that’s a cause they can get behind if they have the correct information to work with. We need to educate them now, before it’s too late. I encourage you to talk to your local politicians and educate them as best you can. Without each of us, the voters standing up, they will carry on with business as usual, and many suffering patients will continue to suffer or even die. That is simply not acceptable.
One final note to consider: Death does not provide relief or rest. Those who think ending their lives will end their suffering have a terrifying reality to face if they die without Christ. So when we think of those who want relief from suffering, we cannot be tempted to think death will in any way accomplish that. All it will do for most is usher them into an eternity under the just wrath of God for their sins. Their suffering will dramatically increase. Sadly, that is most likely exactly what both Williams and Maynard have now discovered. I don’t know for sure that they were unsaved. But the evidence of their beliefs and lives suggests they most likely did not know Christ. That is the most sobering reality of all, and we must never forget it. We’re not just talking about bodies, but souls.