Chuck Colson has an article on health care reform in Christianity Today. In favor of a reform, he raises important questions, and urges Christians to participate in the debate.

Here is his next-to-last paragraph:

Christians have to reassert that there are transcendent standards of right and wrong. While some kinds of heroic care may be withheld in hopeless cases, it is wrong to intentionally take a life. Second, we must champion care for the poor and the weak. Bringing health-care reform to the forefront is the first step. But prudence—a classical virtue that looks objectively at complex situations and applies moral truth—is the third concern. How do we best allocate limited resources?

A while back I posted some considerations on end-of-life issues, which I now repeat.

My pastoral work this week has me thinking about life and death and modern medicine: when to fight death and when to accept it.

Here is my view, for what its worth.

If I were diagnosed with cancer, and told I needed extensive chemo and radiation, I would ask the following questions: what are the odds that the treatments would bring me to a state of being cancer free? if I take the treatments, how much longer would I live than if I refused treatment? if I take the treatments, what would the extra time be like?

If I were told that the treatments would give me a better than even chance of becoming cancer free, then I would accept treatment. If I were told that the odds were good that treatment would add years to my life, years that could be productive, then I would accept treatment. On the other hand, if I were told that there was almost no way treatment could make me cancer free, that treatment probably would add minimal time to my life, and that this time would not be productive, I would refuse treatment. These decisions I would make as a Christian.

Christian wisdom on this issue gives me two guidelines for my decision making.

On the one hand, I am a steward of my own body and its health, the one to whom my body and its health actually belongs is Jesus Christ. My life is not my own to destroy by active measures or by neglect. My purpose in life is to glorify God and work for the Kingdom. If treatment has good hope of a cure, or of adding productive years to my life, then I am under obligation to take treatment. (Scriptures to read include 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.")

On the other hand, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;" Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. None of us are going to live forever as we now are. Unless Jesus returns sooner, all of us reading this will die. As Christians we should regard our own death as did Paul--"for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," Philippians 1:21.

As a Christian I am not free to take my own life or to neglect my own health, including neglecting treatment that may give me health. But, I am under no obligation to try to prolong life merely for the sake of avoiding death. I believe these things to be true when we must make decisions for those incapable of making their own.