Personhood – Permissible Killing?

A friend commented on my posting titled, Personhood – Which Comes First Death of the Body or Departure of Soul?. In this posting I said that, so far, our society agrees that a person must be dead for vital organs to be taken. My friend pointed out that if a person is unresponsive and sure to die very soon, that there are people who do not have a problem with taking vital organs, even among Christians. Some will agree that this may result in the person dying sooner but will think that this in not really a problem because the person is going to die anyway.  The questions presents.  If a person is unresponsive are they really there?  Most people’s experience, or lack thereof, may permit them to accept that an unresponsive person is not really there.

If a person is unresponsive and dying, then many may think that there is nothing lost in speeding up the death.  If this is the case, and there are useful organs to retrieve, then what is wrong with taking these organ as well?  Or what would be wrong overdosing and unresponsive dying person with morphine in order to shorten the distressing time for the family, as they wait for death?

In the blog posting mentioned, I argued that ‘thinking” is connected with the soul and that brain function is not necessarily needed in order for a person to think.  Brain function is, of course, needed to express thought, as are other parts of the body such as arms and hands if the thoughts are to be typed out, or lungs, vocal cords, mouth, and all their supporting structures if the thoughts are to be spoken.

If thinking is, indeed, not dependent on brain function, then we should not presume that hastening the dying of an unresponsive person will cause no harm.  Biblically, processes like belief, confession and repentance are mediate through thought.  For example, repentance involves a change of mind.  God works with the hearts and minds of people, at times, through agony.  We are to count it all joy when we fall into trials. (James 1)  Can the times that God works with one’s mind not include even terrible trials such as severe injury and unresponsiveness that is near unto death?  If thinking can continue, can not God still work with this person, even in the last moments of their life?  Is it not possible that this could be life changing with respect to the person’s relationship with God and that it could involve changes in thinking that could mean the difference between eternity in heaven or hell?

Can God interact with our thoughts, when we are unresponsive?  The quick response is “of course, all things are possible with God.”  There are a number of examples in the gospels where Jesus was aware of the unspoken thoughts of various people, indicating He can understand thoughts that are not outwardly expressed.  The conscience is described in the bible and speaks to us in our thoughts.  The laws of the Lord (or the morals of the Lord – see blog posting My Beliefs) are said to be written on our hearts indicating that the Lord’s ways are known, in some way, to our minds.  Given all of this, it is reasonable to think that the Lord can interact with us even if we are physically unresponsive.  Could this not involve thoughts that were received when still responsive or thoughts introduce by God to the unresponsive person?

My friend, thinking about the blog posting on death and departure of the soul that is mentioned above, found himself wondering if it was morally reasonable to hasten death of an unresponsive dying person.  I presented to him the argument that I have laid out here.  He thought that this argument has merit and should be considered by those who are thinking that there is little to stop us from hastening the death of an unresponsive dying person.  Thus, the development of this blog posting.

What if the unresponsive dying person is not yet ready to stand in the presence of the Lord?  It is conceivable that the Lord may interact in a meaningful way with an unresponsive dying person?  Shouldn’t  this prompt us to allow death to occur in a more natural way, rather then hastening death by removing vital organs or giving overdoes of sedating medications?

I believe that the bible teaches that God is the author and finisher of life, that we do not actually take a life apart from God’s will and allowance of it.  But we may be held to account based on what our intent is as we care for people.  But that is for another blog posting.


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