Archive for August 30th, 2011

Elizabeth Skoglund and I have met only once.  But, our friendship grew by way of phone conversations over a period of years.  Elizabeth is the author of over twenty books.  One of them caught my eye in a bookstore when I was researching end-of-life issues.  That book, Life on the Line, proved to be powerfully helpful to me.  Elizabeth and I share the same worldview on life issues, but her experience as a counselor in private practice and as a gifted researcher and writer equipped me to be a better defender of the sanctity of human life.

Life on the Line was so helpful to me that I wanted others to be encouraged by her, too.  I invited Elizabeth to be a workshop presenter at one of our Lutherans For Life conferences.  Illness prevented her from coming, but some time later, I asked Elizabeth if she would author a short handbook on decision-making at the end of life to be published by Lutherans For Life.  She did.  The book is titled Before I Die.  I highly recommend both Life on the Line and Before I Die in this time of technological advances, shifting standards, and babel of confusing and often contradictory voices.

Elizabeth notes that volumes could be written on all the “what-ifs” of medical technology.  “But,” she writes, “we are on much safer ground if we follow certain general Biblical principles . . . whether or not we like them.  If we do not, we are in desperate danger of trying to become gods and making our own rules based on what we feel and what we want at any given time.”

Those Biblical principles, writes Elizabeth, “can be summarized in three phrases: the sanctity of human life; the sovereignty of God, including His timing in matters of life and death; and the goodness of God, who will not fail to do right.”

Elizabeth explains that questions like “What would Aunt Sally want?” are not designed to find out the will of God in bioethics.  They merely express what we want or feel.  The Christian believer does better to ask, “What is the will of God?”

There are gray areas in times of decision-making.  Use of the respirator, for example, is troubling for many of us.  The respirator is uncomfortable.  It’s use is controversial among doctors.  Elizabeth admits that being on a respirator is one of her own great personal fears.  She expresses sympathy for those who let it be known that under no conditions do they wish to be put on a respirator.

But, writes Elizabeth, if a respirator can be a bridge back to life, she believes we have an obligation to try to live.  On the other hand, if the respirator is used when death is inevitable, simply to slow down the dying process, then it is wrongfully keeping a person from being released to be with God.

I haven’t spoken with Elizabeth for some time.  A good visit is long overdue.  In these times, we need to challenge one another to think.  To encourage one another to trust our Creator God and Savior Jesus Christ.  To work where we’ve been placed in helping others respect the dignity of human life — that of the preborn and that of a loved one nearing their death.

Our last moments on earth are important ones.  For some, it is a time of decision.  For others, it is a time of transition from this life to the next.  It is a valuable time for the family who gathers at the bedside of one who is so close to going home.  Elizabeth quotes John White (Decision, May 1989):

“In life we are on a stage.  Angels and demons watch as we enact the drama of our earthly existence, and it is important that the scene close properly.  Christ has shown us how the lines should be uttered, as a cry of joyful triumph: “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”  (Luke 23:46 RSV).  We will only die once and will therefore have only one chance to die properly.  We must learn our lines well beforehand so that the curtains fall on a note of triumph.”

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