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A Christian Perspective on Choice in Dying

by Bishop Shelby Spong

I want them to remember me as a person who was vital to the end, as one who was in possession of all that makes me who I am, and as one who died well. My deepest desire is always to choose death with dignity over a life that has become either hopelessly painful and dysfunctional or empty and devoid of all meaning.

That is the only way I know that would allow me to honor the God in whose image I believe I was created….I think this choice should be legal. I will work…to create a world where…physicians will assist those, who choose to do so, with the ability to die at the appropriate time. I also think the choice to do this should be acclaimed as both moral and ethical, a human right if you will…The God whom I experience can surely not be served by those in whom death is simply postponed or not allowed to served its natural function.

I see no contradiction between the faith I cherish and the principles for which the Hemlock Society stands… I am a Christian whose faith has led him to champion the legal, moral, and ethical right that I believe every individual should be given – to die with dignity and to have the freedom to choose when and how that dignified death might be accomplished.”

The above is from the Keynote Speech at the 14th National Conference of the Hemlock Society, January 2003, San Diego CA by Episcopal Bishop Rt. Reverend Shelby John Spong

This is from testimony given to the U.S. Congress by Bishop Spong:

Assisted suicide should never be a requirement, but it should always be a legal and moral option. The decision to end one’s life needs to be faced openly, honestly, freely and in consultation with our loved ones, our doctors, and our spiritual advisors. When the decision on assisted suicide is made this way, I am convinced that it is a life-affirming moral choice.

I come to these conclusions as a Christian…My personal creed asserts that every person is sacred. I see the holiness of life enhanced, not diminished, by letting people have a say in how they choose to die. Many of us want the moral and legal right to choose to die with our faculties intact, surrounded by those we love before we are reduced to breathing cadavers, with no human dignity attached to our final days…Life must not be identified with the extension of biological existence.

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