Right to Die Billboard Campaign Sparks Debate, Jack #4- Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols

Right to Die Billboard Campaign Sparks Debate, Jack #4

Right to Die Billboard Campaign Sparks Debate, Jack #4

A bold sign placed strategically on a busy New Jersey highway — “My Life   My Death   My Choice  FinalExitNetwork.org” – is part of a “right to die” billboard campaign by Final Exit Network. The network claims the ads are aimed at people suffering from terminal illness, usually the elderly.

The billboard, along with one in San Francisco and another planned for Florida, anchor a national campaign by the network to raise awareness of its mission.Members say the locations were chosen for their reputations as socially progressive and, in Florida’s case, for its elderly population.

The network does not advocate physician-assisted suicide. Instead, it provides information about specific ways one can obtain what it terms “self-deliverance.”

On its website, the network proudly states that it offers clients advice on methods to end their lives. It boasts that as a right-to-die organization, what makes it unique among others in the United States is that it helps people who are not terminally ill to “hasten their death.”

The billboard campaign has created controversy, especially concerning the location of their advertisement and potential viewing by those who are suicidal and/or depressed.

Suicide prevention expert Dr. Judith Springer, a board member of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, says she is horrified by the signs.  “The idea of any of these upset, impressionable kids seeing a billboard like that absolutely horrifies me,” she said. “You can’t filter who sees a publicly displayed sign.”

Dr. Springer doesn’t disagree with the Network’s mission but she disagrees with how they’re delivering their message.

“We’re talking about a lot of people feeling desperate and suicidal. To be in that state and see that sign is an unnecessary risk,” she said.

“I had a girl in my office who said, ‘I feel as if I’m walking down a long hall, and all the doors are locked except the one that leads to death.’ If someone sees that sign,” Springer warned, “they may say that’s the way.”

“Every two minutes, someone under the age of 25 commits suicide,” she said. “For every suicide, there are 50 to 100 people who attempt it.”

I vehemently disagree with the group’s mission and their choice of delivering their message.  Life is God’s gift – all life, whether old or young, whether plagued with illness, pain, dementia, depression, spinal cord injury, mental handicap, torturous illness, progressive disease or a terminal diagnosis.

As stated in We Know Jack #1, Scripture clearly states that God – not man – is sovereign over life and death.

“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me, I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

God ordained all of our days before even one of them came to be (see Psalm 139:16). He has appointed a time for our death.

  • “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
  • “Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time? (Ecclesiastes 7:17).

We are not to “hasten” our death. To assist someone in committing suicide is to commit murder and this breaks God’s unequivocal commandment in Exodus 20:13. “You shall not commit murder” includes self-murder.

I suppose it is only natural for someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ personally to feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges.  They don’t know the One who Himself is our hope!  Without hope, I suppose there is little else to do but plan an escape…but to where?  To an eternity separated from God?

From a Biblical worldview, this notion is absurd. Our lives are not our own; we were bought with a price. God has an eternal purpose for allowing every circumstance that we encounter. He is powerful enough to trust with our lives, loving enough to trust with our trials and wise enough to trust with our tomorrows.

Yet those coming from a different worldview are influencing our entire society. The trickle down effect will impact us all – from the removal of life-prolonging health care and our freedoms to make medical decisions to the devaluing of all human life.  The time is long passed that we can presume nonsense such as Kevorkian movies and right-to-die billboards will affect only a microscopic percentage of Americans.

Many myths are propagated by right-to-die organizations. In Jack #1, we dispelled a few of these myths. Let’s dispel a few more:


Myth: Depression is a valid reason to grant assisted suicide.

The truth: Depression can be treated.

According to the eleventh annual report in Oregon (where assisted suicide is legal), 88 prescriptions for assisted suicide were written during 2008 but, of those, only two patients were referred for a psychological evaluation before receiving the prescription for assisted suicide.

Right-to-die organizations, like Dignity in Dying, advocate suicide as a therapeutic answer to the problem of depression. Their website and case examples are evidence of this. Every report published to date on the subject confirms, fear and depression – not pain – always play the major role in assisted suicide requests.

Personal Account

I have experienced clinical depression caused from both internal and external influences. During the first months of my disability, I became depressed by the sudden losses and changes in my life. Not doing anything…lying around sick all the time — it was a dramatic about face from college life at Baylor. During the week I was busy on campus; on the weekends I ministered in churches and traveled out of state for pageant training.

Forced to withdraw from school before graduating, I became clinically depressed. (In hindsight, aware that Lyme infects the central nervous system within the first 24 hours, there were likely internal, infectious causes of my depression as well.) I cried all the time, had thoughts of suicide and was prescribed anti-depressant medication, which helped tremendously.

This doesn’t mean that I never become discouraged, or weary, or sad. I spent many hours before God weeping and pleading for relief from my confinement. In every instance, God met me, took my burdens and replaced them with His joy and perspective.

As the Lyme bacteria further affected my brain, I began to feel electrocuted or burned alive…but where one feels thoughts. It was torturous! Excruciating – more excruciating than the sum total of bodily pain and sickness I had endured over the years! I had been confined to wheelchair and to bed, but it was nothing compared to this.

If ever I thought I was in an “I can’t take it” scenario, this was it. And I let God know! I wanted out. I didn’t want to wake up, didn’t want to be alive and didn’t want to endure any more torture. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to die; I just wanted relief. There was no known medical treatment that would help. For three years my family exhausted all the United States and other countries had to offer…all to no avail.

But you know what? Looking back, those three years of seemingly unbearable moments taught me where true joy resides. I learned this sweet lesson a few years earlier. Only this time, I experienced it in a much deeper way.

“You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

No matter what is going on in our circumstances or our mental health, pure joy is available.

Scripture says that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). I remember months in which my mind was desperately dysfunctional from Lyme encephalitis. When confined and unable to do things, your mind is what you use to cope – to occupy yourself and pass time.

For several years, I didn’t have the ability to do this – to pass time or add pleasure to the day by reading, watching television or talking with friends. However I was cognizant enough to feel the terrible sensations in my brain. I couldn’t feel pleasure in normal ways. My existence was miserable. My thinking was screwed up. I wanted out! I begged God to take my life.

Package of Pure Gold

Thank God for the hope and promise that are in Christ! When total chaos, death and despair were swirling in my mind Jesus replaced it all with His mind – with His thoughts, His joy, His peace and perspective.

This is why I say that the most priceless treasure I’ve ever received is the gift of knowing Jesus more intimately—literally existing by His life—because of the trial I went through. This incredible gift came “wrapped” in the paper of hardship and suffering. I was tempted to judge the gift by the wrapping paper and throw it away…or at the very least, resent it. But I finally came to understand that my trial wasn’t a plague of severe loss – but a package of pure gold.

The Word of God – An Indispensable Prescription

Although I had a personal relationship with Jesus since childhood, I never knew how much of Him I was missing until I experienced suffering beyond my ability to endure.  On my worst days, it felt like I was literally being crushed by the overwhelming trial I faced. I asked God to take me home, and considered taking my life myself because it seemed the torture was more than I could bear.

This forced me to turn to God’s Word and the life of Christ like never before. They became so much more than head knowledge to me. They became my life! My existence!  My joy!  I had never clung to the truth and life of God’s Word so tightly. I had never needed the Spirit of Jesus Christ so desperately.

When I put my trust in Christ as a young girl, His Spirit came to dwell in me.  Yet, the years of affliction brought me to a place of needing Him to live for me. There is a big difference between the two.  One is me doing my best for Christ and the other is Him living my life for me.

Stripped of my abilities and unable to survive apart from Jesus, I came to exist by His life and the life of God’s Word. This is what I mean when I say that my illness has been a package of pure gold. It was the best experience of my life. Because of my affliction, I relied upon God’s Word and the life of Christ. I was infused with His comfort, His peace, His strength, His joy and His eternal perspective. I was infused with grace beyond measure – God’s comfort for life’s trials.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, He comes and lives in us (see Ga. 4: 6 and 2 Cor. 1:22). As born again Christians, we dwell on two plains: a temporal, earthly plain – in our ‘natural’ man – and a spiritual, eternal plain through the Spirit of Christ.

Suffering impairs our ability to live autonomous of God – to survive by the abilities of our natural man. Suffering pushes us to the end of ourselves. This is obvious. But what’s at the end for you, for your loved one, for your family member? Is it Christ?

I wholeheartedly support treating clinical depression with medication. Yet I also know that life is plagued with constant imperfections that can rob us of our joy. We can have the most healthy brain chemistry in the world and still be joyless and hopeless apart from Christ.  The life of Jesus and God’s Word should be a vital part of any treatment regimen.

“The word of God is living and active,” Hebrews 4:12 says. The Greek word for “active” is energes. It was a word used in secular society to describe a medicine that was effectively engaged in the work it was designed to do. God designed His Word – the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible – to do a work in all of our lives. We must all remember to take this vital prescription!


Myth: Fear is a legitimate cause for assisted suicide

Truth: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).

“God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.” (2 Tim. 1:7, God’s Word Translation).

According to a report entitled, “8 Years under Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law,” the major reasons for the 246 reported assisted suicides involved fear of what the future might bring.

The story of Sir Edward Downes (see We Know Jack, #1), former conductor of Britain’s Royal Opera is a prime example. Fear of potential sorrow and loneliness if his wife died of cancer drove him to choose assisted suicide along with his wife.

The stories on Dignity in Dying’s website betray the fact that fear, not terminal illness, is the main cause of assisted suicides. Many of the stories use the word “if.”

Beloved, you and I know that we have nothing to fear. We know that God has promised to carry us through every moment of our lives.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

We know that we have nothing to fear. God’s grace – His life lived through us – will carry us and bless us through any hardship that comes our way.

Those with a Biblical worldview clearly know that assisted suicide is reprehensible. But this doesn’t mean that we can sit on our spiritual laurels and let the culture of death take over America. The implications are too great! We are to be salt and light, to pray, to intercede and to actively oppose such ideas and legal steps wherever they occur.


Myth: Loss of ‘dignity’ is sufficient cause for assisted suicide.

Truth: Our dignity as human beings is not determined by whether we are ambulatory or can go to the restroom unaided.

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

God’s breath is what gives us life and dignity. We are mere creatures of an infinitely wise and powerful God who busies Himself with our every step (see Psalm 37:23, Amplified).Because He knit us in our mother’s womb and sent His son to die for us to pay the price for our sins,  we have dignity.

In my interview with Scott Brodie, he kept referring to “identifying with Christ.” When I asked him what he meant by that,  he answered with a story. (See Scott Brodie: Answers and Inspiration to watch Scott telling the story.)

One day he was in the bedroom having a rough day. His wife was busy in the other room. He had been spitting on himself. He had an accident. He looked like a mess. (Some would mischaracterize it and say Scott’s life no longer had “dignity.”)

His wife came into the bedroom and immediately began to clean him up and care for him. As she did, Scott caught his reflection in the mirror. He had tubes coming out of him. He was soiled and dirty. He looked in the mirror and said, “That’s not me. I’m a king. I’m a child of God. He loves me. I’m not that man in the mirror. I’m a co-heir with Christ.”

Once again, the antidote to assisted suicide is the life of Christ. Our ‘dignity’ comes from His life. The more we are content to remain lukewarm as Christians, dimming our light and hoarding our salt, the more society and we will lose precious freedoms.

A Favor

Myth: Assisted suicide is a help to the dying.

Truth: It only hurts the plight of the dying and disabled.

Robert Salamanca suffered with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease) for seven years when he wrote an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“On January 8, the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning whether terminally ill people have a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide,” he wrote. “After the two-hour hearing, with its blending of emotion and law, the justices seemed highly skeptical.”

“I hope so,” he continued. “For as Chicago’s beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote to the Supreme Court just before he died:

There can be no such thing as a ‘right to assisted suicide’ because there can be no legal and moral order which tolerates the killing of innocent human life, even if the agent of death is self-administered. Creating a new ‘right’ to assisted suicide will endanger society and send a false signal that a less than ‘perfect’ life is not worth living.

Robert embraced life, even with its imperfections:

Euthanasia advocates believe they are doing people like me a favor. They are not. The negative emotions toward the terminally ill and disabled generated by their advocacy is actually at the expense of the “dying” and their families and friends…

What we, the terminally ill, need is exactly the opposite—to realize how important our lives are. And our loved ones, friends, and, indeed, society need to help us feel that we are loved and appreciated unconditionally.

Instead, reporting in the media too often makes us feel like token presences, burdens who are better off dead… Many pro-euthanasia groups “showcase” people with ALS. They portray us as feeble, unintelligible and dying by slow suffocation. This is absolutely false, and I protest their efforts vehemently. By receiving proper medical care, a terminally ill person can pass away peacefully, pain-free and with dignity. We are not people just waiting for someone to help us end our misery, but to the contrary, we are people reaching out to love… to be loved… wanting to feel life at its best.

Too many people have accepted the presumption that an extermination of some human lives can be just. Are we becoming a society so starved for heroes that we are too quick to embrace the Jack Kevorkians of the world? Where has our sense of community gone? True, terminal illness is frightening, but the majority of us overpower the symptoms and are great contributors to life.

If physician-assisted suicide is legally available, the right to die may become a duty to die. The hopelessly ill may be subtly pressured to get their dying over with — not only by cost-counting providers but by family members concerned about burdensome bills, impatient for an inheritance, exhausted by care-giving or just anxious to spare a loved one further suffering.

In my view, the pro-euthanasia followers’ posture is a great threat to the foundation upon which all life is based, and that is hope. I exhort everyone: Life is worth living, and life is worth receiving. I know. I live it every day.[i]

– Robert Salamanca (Emphasis added.)

The End is Near

Myth: Diagnosis and symptoms that indicate fast approaching death always come to that end. Why not hasten it a little and spare the misery?

Truth: Many people outlive their estimated date of death. In the intervening time, invaluable occurrences take place. Families are mended, children are born, grievances are reconciled, last holidays are celebrated…and most importantly, lives are purified and prepared for eternity. Heavenly crowns are accrued (see James 1:12). Those who don’t know Christ are given an additional time in which to turn to Christ and change their eternal destiny.

Just take a look at the Brodies. Scott was given just two to five years to live…thirteen years ago! He and Glennis’ youngest child, Kylee, was six years old when Scott was diagnosed.  She just graduated high school in May. Scott and Glennis have seen their daughters play volleyball, their children graduate, their son grow up and help with their business and their oldest daughter marry (Scott even danced at her wedding) and give birth to their first grandchild! And so much more!! Scott was told he would never live to see these things.

A report by the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide notes the fact that while patients in Oregon are supposed to just have six months to live, a number of individuals who have been granted the lethal prescriptions but who have subsequently decided not to end their lives go on to live longer.

“The time between writing the assisted suicide prescription and death ranged from zero to 698 days,” says the report. “Thus, some patients lived for almost two years after receiving the lethal drugs – well beyond the required six months’ life expectancy.”

Although the rules supposedly require those handed the lethal prescriptions to have a life expectancy of only six months, some who subsequently decide not to kill themselves have gone on to survive for a year-and-a-half more.

Dr. Peter Rasmussen, an advisory board member of the Oregon chapter of C &C (Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society) has been involved in Oregon assisted-suicide deaths numbering into double digits.  The International Task Force report states that Dr. Rasmussen said that, “life expectancy predictions for a person entering the final phase of life are inaccurate. He dismissed this as unimportant, saying, ‘Admittedly, we are inaccurate in prognosticating the time of death under those circumstances, we can easily be 100 percent off, but I do not think that is a problem. If we say a patient has six months to live and we are off by 100 percent and it is really three months or even twelve months, I do not think the patient is harmed in any way….”[ii]

Gary and Bonnie Eisler

In November, 1997, Gary Eisler, who lives in Oregon, wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal.

In moving words, Eisler described the slow, painful death from cancer of his dearly-loved wife, Bonnie. When the cancer spread from Mrs. Eisler’s breast to her brain, her doctor recommended that all treatment be stopped.

Bonnie Eisler spent the last two months of her life in agonizing pain. Yet, Eisler says, many “wonderful things” happened during that time: the birth of their first grandchild, a last Christmas together.

In spite of his wife’s suffering, Eisler wrote that their last hours together were “some of the most intimate and precious of our marriage….Reason and compassion would have dictated that Bonnie’s life be ended weeks earlier,” he said, “but how much poorer everyone—including her—would have been.”

Eisler closes his piece with a sober warning. Unless assisted suicide is repealed, “it will not be long before the vultures begin circling.” Cancer treatment is expensive. If Bonnie Eisler had known the cost of her treatments, her husband says, “she might well have felt she was a burden” and opted to kill herself.”

Eisler asks one final question: “Will what has been ‘optional’ someday become ‘suggested’— and perhaps eventually required?”


Myth: Assisting or instructing someone in taking their life is compassionate and merciful.

The truth: Because of His unfailing love, God shows compassion.  His compassion is given to us freely as we yield our lives to His authority.

Lamentations 3:32 tells us that God “will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'” Lamentations 3:21-25

From God’s viewpoint, compassion is sitting by someone’s bedside, helping them manage their pain, lifting them out of their depression, keeping them from being isolated. Compassion is helping them see the positive meaning in their suffering…and sharing God’s unfailing love. This is compassion. Not a billboard encouraging you to kill yourself. Not a lethal drug. Not instructions as to how to commit suicide.

What about pain?

Often those in favor of euthanasia use the words “mercy” and “compassion” as their argument.

Scripture authorizes man to treat the pain but it does not authorize taking the life of the dying.

Proverbs 31:6, “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” Today we have many medications that help relieve pain and unbearable symptoms, as “strong drink” did in Solomon’s day.

Pain and Palliative Care

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as: The active, total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment.

The purpose of palliative care is to achieve the best quality of life for patients. Some feel that to a great extent euthanasia is practiced as a substitute for palliative care.

This is the case in the Netherlands – where a long, frightening experiment with assisted suicide has proven that wherever assisted suicide and euthanasia are practiced, they become the rule, not the exception, for people with terminal illness. What then becomes of the most vulnerable people among us?

Dr. Herbert Hendin, professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention studied the Dutch experience with assisted suicide. According to Dr. Hendin’s 1996 congressional testimony, in the Netherlands,  “pressure for improved palliative care appears to have evaporated,” because of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Over the past two decades,” Hendin continued, “the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Once the Dutch accepted assisted suicide it was not possible legally or morally to deny more active medical (assistance to die), i.e. euthanasia, to those who could not effect their own deaths. Nor could they deny assisted suicide or euthanasia to the chronically ill who have longer to suffer than the terminally ill or to those who have psychological pain not associated with physical disease. To do so would be a form of discrimination. Involuntary euthanasia has been justified as necessitated by the need to make decisions for patients not competent to choose for themselves.” [iii]

Allegations of abuse caused the Dutch government to conduct studies in 1990, 1995 and in 2001. Hendin, one of a few foreign researchers allowed to extensively study the situation in the Netherlands, says of the Dutch government study:

“Physicians’ anonymity was protected and they were given immunity for anything they revealed. Violations of guidelines became evident. Half of Dutch doctors feel free to suggest euthanasia to their patients, which compromises the voluntariness of the process. Fifty percent of cases were not reported, which made regulation impossible. The most alarming concern has been the documentation of several thousand cases a year in which patients who have not given their consent have their lives ended by physicians. A quarter of physicians stated that they “terminated the lives of patients without an explicit request” from the patient. Another third of the physicians could conceive of doing so.” [iv]

In his testimony, Hendin said the Dutch assisted suicide studies have demonstrated how inadequately physicians are trained in palliative care in the Netherlands.

Americans should be putting effort and resources into things like palliative care that increase a patient’s quality of life rather than adopting approaches that will end patients’ lives.

As Christians, our goal should be to improve people’s lives and help them see the positive meaning in their conditions. Let’s help those who are in despair. Instead, by our passivity, we are allowing their plight to be inaccurately redefined and laws to be passed which make it easier for them to die.

Question: In light of these facts, what do you feel should be the fate of the billboard campaign in America?

[i] San Francisco Chronicle, 2/19/97. Reprinted at http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/iua8.htm

[ii] http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/pdf/Eleven_Years_of_PAS_OR_08_09.pdf

[iii] Herbert Hendin, M.D., “Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Lessons From the Dutch Experience,” U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Oversight Hearing, April 29, 1996.

[iv] http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/54071


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One Response to “Right to Die Billboard Campaign Sparks Debate, Jack #4”

  1. This has always seemed to be such a controversial issue. Maybe if we improve some of the mental health care around, more people would be discouraged from this.

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