Near the end of life it is common be told not to worry about feeding and even to stop feeding, suggesting it will only prolong their life. Although I do not advocate feeding near the end of life in all circumstances, I propose stopping feeding because feeding will prolong life is not in keeping with a Christian world view. Why do I say this?
Length of life, according to the Bible, is determined by God. The Lord God gives us life, sustains life and takes away life. In the beginning God created everything. Psalm 139 tells us God formed us in our mother’s womb, and had our days written down even before we were formed. Job, in one of his prayers to God (Job 13-14), recognized God has determined our days, even the number of them. Hannah, the mother of Samuel in her prayer to God, in 1 Samuel 2, also saw this, saying that the Lord takes life, makes alive, brings us to the grave and up again. The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 42, says God created the heavens and the earth and gives breath to the people on it. These passages indicate God has our days planned, even the day of our death. Is this really so? The fact that many prophesies in the Bible have historically come true, support God being in control. As does the record that Jesus knew what people were thinking, as well as the outcome of their actions, (like His knowing Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed). God knows everything, our days, even the day of our death.
I have already Commented on the question, Are those who fail to pass brain stem function tests really dead? (read blog entry Organ-donation – Are Brain Dead Really Dead?) In this entry I would like to consider another approach to the claim that those who are brain dead are really dead.
The argument accepts the biblical view that when a person is dead then the neurologic (brain), circulatory (heart), and respiratory (Lungs) systems are each dead.
In order to maintain the biblical requirement for death, the argument goes something like this. The brain stem is responsible for maintaining life, such that without brain stem function, the body will die. Since brain stem function is necessary for other organ systems to continue to function, the reason why other organ systems may continue to function is because they are being artificially supported. If the artificial support is discontinued, then these organ systems would cease to function as well. The implication is that, since these organ systems are being supported artificially, their life is really artificial, that is that they are not really living and the person is dead.
In the blog entry titled, Vital Organ Donation – The Most Important Question, I proposed the following “most important question.”
The question: Is it possible for a person to be dead while their body is still alive?
The answer one gives to this question depends on what one believes is the make-up of a living person. The true answer to this question comes only from a true understanding of what it is to be a living person. From a biblical perspective, with death of a person, the body goes to the dust and the soul goes to wait to be reunited with the body to face judgment at the last day. Most would agree that a person whose body is given up to the dust is dead, but what about a person whose body remains alive? (There is further discussion on personhood, what it means to be a person, in my blog posts titled, Personhood-What Is It? and Personhood-Image of God.
Worldview and Ethical Issues from a Biblical Perspective