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Apologetics Series: Should Physicians Take Life?

by Robert W. Martin III, MD, MAR
Today's Christian Doctor - Spring 2008

Note: This is our fifth article in this series on apologetics. The pages are designed for ease in copying for personal study, discussion in a group setting, or for distribution to colleagues and staff. Installment six is scheduled to appear in our Fall 2008 issue.

I. Introduction

“No one should force their morals on anyone else. It’s my body. Euthanasia is the most merciful alternative. Legislating morality involves religion, a violation of the separation of church and state.”

Modern physicians frequently face moral dilemmas involving conflicts between what is legal and what is morally right. Resolving these dilemmas requires that, in the public arena, Christian physicians attractively and compelling justify a common morality compatible with their Christian beliefs. Because our post-modern society rejects the authority of Scripture, apologetics can overcome obstacles by meeting people where they are and getting them to the Scripture as soon as possible.

II. Addressing Moral Issues in the Public Forum

Christian physicians must involve themselves in public debates related to life and death legislation. There is no need to be defensive about charges of being judgmental, since your opponents are also being judgmental. Love people, but don’t accept their false ideas as true or their evil behavior as moral. Emphasize unity more than diversity, since the Moral Law is impressed on everyone in his or her reactions rather than by their actions. The Moral Law is not always the standard by which we treat others, but it is the standard by which we expect others to treat us.

Religious freedom and expression are good things; but this implies that Christians should have equal representation. Being tolerant of other views does not necessitate agreement. All laws legislate morality, the question is – whose morality will be legislated?

Finally, learn to turn your opponent’s argument on itself by asking rhetorical questions such as, “If we should tolerate everything, why are you intolerant of my position? If we are not to judge others, why are you judging me and if we can’t judge, why are we debating this issue?”

“You can’t legislate morality!” he may say. To which you reply, “Legislating morality is unavoidable. All laws declare one behavior is right and its opposite wrong. Therefore, all laws legislate morality. At issue is whose morality will be legislated?”

“Don’t cram your morals down my throat!” she may protest. “Since all laws declare one behavior to be right and another to be wrong, those who are against ‘legislating morality’ are trying to impose their position on others.”

“We are consenting adults!” he says. “Allowing consenting adults to do as they please imposes negative effects on others. Consent doesn’t turn a moral wrong into a moral right. Laws should not be based on what people want to do, but on what is right as defined by the Moral Law.”

“What about tolerance?” she asks. “Tolerance may be a virtue, but love is a greater one. We must love people by seeking to minimize the behavior that is destroying them. Tolerating harmful behavior is unloving.”

III. Abortion

The Moral Law impresses on everyone that innocent human life should not be taken. Pro-abortionists do not believe the baby is human. Women who get abortions are not murderers but victims themselves! Medically and scientifically, abortion ends the life of an innocent human being.

“Women must have the freedom to choose!” he says. “No one has the moral right to choose anything that directly ends the life of another innocent human being. If the ‘freedom to choose’ were really pro-abortionists’ highest value, they would not condemn racists, rapists, or companies for choosing to discriminate or pollute.”

“It’s my body! Abortion is a matter of privacy!” she says. “The baby is not a part of its mother’s body, but a distinct human being who resides there (i.e., half are male; many have a different blood type; and, all have unique genetics)! The developmental requirements of the baby in the womb are exactly those of babies outside the womb: time, air, water, and food. Even if a mother has the right to control her body, she does not have the right to destroy someone else’s body in the process.”

“Abortion helps advance women’s careers,” he claims. “More than two thousand aborted baby girls’ careers are ended every day.”

“Abortion is a constitutional right!” she insists. “The Court has been wrong on many issues.”

“Abortion is appropriate for unwanted babies, those with birth defects, or being born into poverty,” he says. “The baby is a human being! How does being unwanted nullify a person’s humanness? There are unwanted two-year-olds and even some unwanted teenagers!”

“Abortion relieves overpopulation,” he says. “Murdering a portion of the population is not the solution to overpopulation. The end doesn’t justify the means. In America there are more couples wanting to adopt children than there are abortions.”

“Abortion avoids child abuse,” she says. “Murder is the worst kind of child abuse. It is illogical to kill children because they might be abused in the future.”

“Without legal abortions women will die from back alley abortions!” he says. “Nothing morally wrong is ever politically right, especially when lives are at stake. The unborn child is a 100 percent human being. Why should we keep crime safe and legal?”

“Some women get pregnant by rape or incest,” she says. “This is an emotional smoke screen. Ask pro-abortionists if they would support a law banning all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. While the crime was horrible, the product is an innocent human being. Punish the guilty rapist, but do not kill the innocent baby. Sometimes the moral thing to do is not the most pleasant. Furthermore, if removing emotional distress is justification for aborting babies of rape, then so is killing children already born who are products of rape. Finally, there is evidence that abortion adds emotional, psychological, and even physical distress. These rare cases should not be the basis of our nation’s abortion laws.”

“The fetus is tiny, undeveloped, and unconscious,” he says. “Underlying this justification is the view that only ‘normal’ life is worth protecting. Size, development, or consciousness has nothing to do with essential humanness.”

“Abortion is acceptable before viability,” she says. “Viability is an arbitrary measure of what someone can do, not what someone is. A two-month-old is not viable if left alone.”

“I’m personally opposed to abortion, but we shouldn’t impose our values on others,” he says. “Apply this logic to racism, murder, or rape! The objection assumes that all values are merely a matter of taste or opinion and there is no objective right or wrong. But again, all laws impose values. We just need to decide whose values are going to be imposed.”

IV. Euthanasia

“Euthanasia” intentionally and directly causes a patient’s death. Taking a life intentionally is murder. This is not the same as allowing death naturally. Withholding burdensome artificial life-sustaining means from terminally ill patients or unintentionally hastening death through treatments aimed at controlling symptoms does not constitute either euthanasia or assisted suicide.

“Don’t judge unless you’ve been there!” some object. You reply, “Experience does not determine right and wrong; the Moral Law does. The morality of the act exists independently of our experience with the act. The best time to assess moral issues is when you’re thinking clearly and not hampered by emotional/physical distress.”

“Euthanasia shows mercy by avoiding needless suffering,” others may say. “Euthanasia is not merciful - it destroys the sufferer. This argument assumes there is no value in suffering. Ninety-four percent of patients requesting physician-assisted suicide have a mental illness. Human beings don’t lose their value when they lose their health.”

“Euthanasia ensures patient autonomy, respects the wishes of the dying and enables people to ‘die with dignity,’” some claim. “Euthanasia ends patient autonomy. Intentionally induced death is not an act of freedom because it destroys all freedom. Life should be respected. Suicide and euthanasia take away the irreplaceable gift of life. The dignity of life does not take precedence over life itself. It is illogical to claim one is affirming life by eliminating it.”

“Euthanasia is in the best interest of the patient,” some argue. “Euthanasia ends all ‘interests’ of the patient. Even if a painless state is a good state, it is still morally wrong to accomplish a good end by an evil means.”

“Euthanasia relieves the family’s financial burden,” say some. “This argument values money more than life, and is based on the faulty premise that we should protect and preserve life only if we can afford to do so. The fact that not everyone can afford the best treatment does not mean that no one should get it. Euthanasia would likely become a penalty for being too sick, isolated, or poor. Euthanasia also assumes that terminally ill persons do not have meaningful existences and that death ends suffering. Euthanasia violates the Hippocratic Oath and would further erode trust, devalue life, and add to the growing decay of moral values in America. Despite the inconvenience, we have a duty to love and care for those who are dying. We are dealing with a human life that we did not create and that we have no right to take.”

V. Conclusion

The Moral Law teaches us that it is morally wrong to take the life of another human being, even if they request it. We know what is right; the question is whether or not we have the will to do what’s right.

Proponents of giving physicians the right to kill have suppressed the Moral Law, primarily because they value autonomy and convenience above all else. When this happens in any society, the ultimate virtue in that culture has become selfishness rather than love.


Geilser, Norman L. and Frank Turek. Legislating Morality. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998.


Robert W. Martin III, MD, MAR