Whose life is it?

This story has been troubling me for a couple weeks now.

In Belgium, 44-year-old Nathan Verheist opted for suicide by medical euthanasia because of multiple failed gender reassignment surgeries. Verheist was born a girl but said his parents wanted a boy and psychologically tormented her in her childhood. Verheist said the psychological trauma of the failed effort to become a man was unbearable. He died by lethal injection. Belgium is one of three nations in the world that legalize euthanasia. The Netherlands and Luxembourg are the other two.

The story linked above quotes a woman explaining the virtues of the law.

“The law is about giving people the final choice in how they envision a dignified end of life,” said Hannie Van den Bilcke, a consultant at Huis Van De Mens, a humanist organization.

“I want to emphasize ‘dignified,’” she added. “Any person can make the decision to end his or her life, but this law guarantees that it can happen in a dignified way, if you want to.”

The premise advanced here is that “any person can make the decision to end his or her life.” If we accept that premise then the only moral thing to do is to make the choices as efficient and comfortable as possible.

Of course, the church has not, historically, accepted this premise. We believe that our lives are not our own, but God’s. We receive life as gift and steward it. We do not choose when we are born or when we die. But these claims do not remove the pain and difficulty of our lives. They do not take away from the often tragic choices we make. They do not eliminate — but rather call for — love and compassion for people who are coping with overwhelming pain and suffering.

I don’t want to pretend any of this is easy.

But I can’t help but feel that the church of Jesus Christ has failed when a person dies like this. We failed Nathan when he was damaged by his family and his belief that his life was not worth living. We failed when a nation adopted the idea that life is anything less than a gift from God. We failed when we do not equip each other to walk through suffering and pain without losing our faith.

I know in my own pastoral ministry, I find myself tongue tied in the face of pain and suffering. In the absence of the ability to explain it, I find myself reduced to silence. I need more wisdom in these areas myself. I need more humility. But I hope never to be a witness to the lack of faith that denies our lives are gifts from God.

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3 thoughts on “Whose life is it?

  1. I really wish people that contend they care about others would spend as much time studying the long term effects of the latest “in trend”. If you really care about any particular group of people I would think you would spend a little time studying the issue before jumping on the latest trend. What you see in the media is Hype. What the real truth is behind the sensationalism is not so sensational and many times just plain sad.
    Nathan Verheist made the head lines. Others don’t.

    Do you remember these names made famous for choosing SRS,
    Renee Richard, DanI B. Berry, Samantha MacDougall, Samantha Kane?Ria Cooper 
    Charles Kane 

    – Renée Richards, Associated Press, February 1999.
    “I wish that there could have been an alternative way, but there wasn’t in 1975. If there was a drug that I could have taken that would have reduced the pressure, I would have been better off staying the way I was — a totally intact person. I know deep down that I’m a second-class woman. I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow. Today there are better choices, including medication, for dealing with the compulsion to crossdress and the depression that comes from gender confusion. As far as being fulfilled as a woman, I’m not as fulfilled as I dreamed of being. I get a lot of letters from people who are considering having this operation…and I discourage them all.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/garden/01renee.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    She explains the comment

    These cases made public with much fan fare do no follow up.
    They do not tell the whole story.
    Long term research and follow up give a better picture of truth.
    What the research finds is the vast majority require intense psychiatric treatment.
    The issues that trouble these persons is deep seated and not corrected by changing the physical many times.
    If you are trying to find the truth you have to look at those that are today on the waiting list for Reverse Sex Change Operations also.

    The Research
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043071/

    “Conclusions
    Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.

    1. Thanks for sharing the links. I am no expert on the issues around the surgery, but in this case, at least, it sounds like the person had problems that a sudden could not fix.

      1. There are few experts if any and there is a lot of disagreement.
        I fail to see how people come to conclusions on such critical issues without study.
        As far as sexual orientation is concerned, there is a lot more to talk about outside of Theology.
        What is really going on, what is really practiced and promoted, what the long term costs are are rarely mentioned.
        Some practices are so far out of the norm it is hard to believe.
        Read the following

        “Monogamy and the Rules of Love.” It suggested that ethical non-monogamy will be widely accepted in just 10 years.

        http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/2013/08/bbc-poly-documentary-sets-off-global.html

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