Death and dying are not comfortable topics for discussion. They raise uneasy questions and anxieties, reminders of our own frailty and vulnerability, and fears about the impending loss of loved-ones. But I am absolutely convinced that these are vital topics that we cannot avoid and must face head-on.
Just as we can’t escape being confronted with death and dying in our personal lives, so also these topics have taken on strategic importance in the public arena. Scarcely a week goes by without another high profile media story highlighting the inadequacies of end of life care in our health services, or the tragic story of an individual who committed suicide to escape the suffering and indignity of a terminal illness.
Sophisticated campaigning organisations across the world are using these personal tragedies as the driving force to change the law to allow various forms of medical killing. Their efforts seem to have been highly effective in influencing public opinion in favour of legislation for medically assisted suicide or ‘assisted dying’ as it is increasingly (but misleadingly) called. Of course these are much more than philosophical, political or legal issues. We must never forget the personal tragedies and fears that lie behind the public debates. Our first responsibility is to empathise, to try to comprehend and enter into, the human suffering, fear and desperation which many people face at the end of life.
I have provided a series of short essays dealing with the history of euthanasia in the UK, current international and UK practice, underlying social forces and common arguments in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I’ve also discussed positive Christian responses, medical issues, palliative medicine and end of life care.
- Historical perspectives on euthanasia and assisted suicide
- Euthanasia and assisted suicide – current realities internationally
- Euthanasia and assisted suicide – the argument from autonomy
- Euthanasia and assisted suicide – the argument from compassion
- Christian responses and perspectives on euthanasia and assisted suicide
- Euthanasia and assisted suicide – the UK experience
- Euthanasia and assisted suicide – underlying social forces
- Risks of legalising assisted suicide
- Medical issues in the care of the dying person
- Care of the dying – palliative care and legal frameworks
You can also find lengthier discussions of these issues in each of my books. In my first, Matters of Life and Death, chapters 9 and 10 engage with the debate and offer some solutions. Right To Die?, published in 2015, unpacks the polarised debate around assisted suicide and euthanasia, provides Christian responses to the main arguments in favour of assisted suicide, and shows how palliative care provides a compassionate and effective means of caring for people at the end of life.
Finally, in 2018 I released a companion volume – Dying Well – which came at this question from another angle: what might it look like to reject assisted suicide and euthanasia and instead focus on how to die a good death? It provides practical resources from both a medical and a Christian pastoral perspective on how to approach the last months, weeks and days of one’s life.
I have also uploaded a number of lectures, debates, essays and other resources which touch on this theme:
- Article: Caring in the light of eternity – Dementia and aging as followers of Jesus
- Lecture: Ethical dilemmas in end-of-life care
- Talk: Dependence, disability and dementia
- Talk: Issues at the beginning and end of life – How can Christians respond to these ethical dilemmas?
- Seminar series: Technology at the end of life
- Lecture: When is enough, enough? Dying well in an age of endlessly extending life
- Talk: Bringing (im)mortality to light – How Christians can engage with issues around death
- Article: How to face death with faith and not fear
- Talk: Do we have a right to die? How the church can respond to the campaign for euthanasia
- Podcast: Death and spirituality during a pandemic
I also regularly speak at conferences, universities and churches on this theme – have a look at my events page to find out if I am due to speak near you or click here to get in touch to book me to speak at your event.