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Friday, February 23, 2018

A Pastoral Statement on Euthanasia and Imposing Death by Starvation and Dehydration

Posted by Gary on June 7, 2008

You will find below a Pastoral Statement on Euthanasia and Imposing Death by Starvation and Dehydration. This statement is born of concern for our willingness and increasing intention to end the existence of the ill and disabled through any means but especially through the inhumane and sinful practice of starvation and dehydration.

We recognize that all decisions concerning the end of life are not as clear morally and medically as others and that this statement cannot cover every potential situation adequately. This being said, the fear of misapplication or misunderstanding of our intent must not keep us from speaking to a situation that needs clarification from God’s servants. Our fear of making blanket applications has led us at least in the Protestant world to say very little and sometimes nothing. While it is given that one could present a situation that needs special consideration the simple truth is that with greater frequency people whose condition is not terminal and who by God’s grace might recover are being starved to death. The “quality of life” mantra of recent decades has been successful and has wrought great destruction upon human life.

While this statement makes reference to one individual (Lauren Richardson) whose life is currently threatened by the intention of her guardian and a Delaware court decision, we include also a concern for the many who are starved and dehydrated to death without our knowledge. A few such cases become high profile because of a dispute between family members but most deaths of this nature are never heard of. Because there is no debate between family members the act happens largely unnoticed and uncontested.

It is our prayer that God will use this statement and the voice of His servants to rebuke this practice and those who advocate and enforce it, to call them to repentance and to reverence for God and the life that He gives and takes and that bears His image. This call to repentance is not limited to those of the medical field or political/judicial world but includes all of us who by ignorance and/or apathy have allowed this practice to become entrenched and to increase.

Signatories will be listed in the comments section.

A Pastoral Statement on Euthanasia and Imposing Death by Starvation and Dehydration

Believing that human life at all stages from conception until natural death and in every condition regardless of disability or cognitive ability bears the image of God, we, the undersigned offer our voice in support of life and in opposition to imposing death on the ill and disabled, in particular through starvation and dehydration.

Those of us who minister in Delaware have a special concern at the potential imposed death by starvation of one of our citizens, Lauren Richardson. We urge those who have influence over Lauren’s life, her guardian and the Delaware court system, to act on the basis of hope which comes from faith and reverence for human life, of which God is the author and finisher (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Acknowledging the tragedy and difficulty of human suffering we ask our fellow citizens to consider the following:

1. Euthanasia is an act of hopelessness. Human suffering humbles us as we see our inability to heal suffering despite our many medical advancements. But by imposing death on the ill and disabled, society is declaring that there is no purpose in suffering. This is contrary to the message of Scripture as seen in the lives of many people, most notably Job, and ultimately our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. God has told us clearly that He is the author and finisher of our existence. Fear of God should prevent us from ever seeking to end our own life or the life of another prematurely, especially by depriving them of the sustenance that is essential to human existence.

3. We express our concern that nutrition and hydration have been classified as medical treatment by many medical authorities and in the legal system. Food and water are now referred to in some legal documents as “life support”. This classification then becomes the basis for interpreting unguarded or uninformed comments from individuals about life support as an expressed declaration of their intent. The result is a deceptive vehicle by which many people are starved to death.

4. We urge our citizens to reject the claim that euthanasia is a private act. Even if one’s wishes to have his life ended prematurely were documented (Lauren Richardson left no such written documentation), society must give its approval to euthanize, which it has not done. Euthanasia advocates demand that society validate the so called private decision and make provision for the practice of imposing death. By depicting euthanasia as a purely private act, euthanasia advocates hide the reality that if Lauren is starved to death, we will all share in the decision to do this to her.

5. New Jersey recently ceased capital punishment calling death by injection “cruel and unusual punishment”. If imposing death by injection is cruel, how much more so death by starvation, which can be a two week process!

6. Faith leads to hope. We readily acknowledge that suffering is tragic and painful, both for the one suffering and for their loved ones. But because God is real and active, the end of our life is not certain until He makes it so. Often doctors using their best judgment declare that there is no hope; often they are wrong. Faith believes that God can heal, and that if He doesn’t, He is with us and has a purpose for our suffering.

7. Human suffering is ultimately a result of the fall by which our first parents Adam and Eve turned away from God and brought death (physical and spiritual) upon themselves and their offspring. Human suffering is a reminder of our need of the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal life that comes through His atoning death and resurrection.

  • We call our fellow citizens to acknowledge God’s prerogative in beginning and ending life.
  • We encourage prayer to God in Jesus’ name on behalf of those who suffer.
  • We call on the medical profession and government to turn from their irreverence for God demonstrated in the sinful act of starving and dehydrating the ill and disabled.
  • We remind us all that because mankind bears God’s image our treatment of life is taken as our attitude toward God Himself (Genesis 9:6).
  • Finally, we remind us that God sees our actions and will render to each one of us according to our deeds (Jeremiah 17:10).


Reverend Gary Knapp
East Gate Presbyterian Church (Millsboro, DE)

Doug Perkins
Heritage Presbyterian Church (New Castle, DE)

Jeff Rakes,
Assistant Pastor, Grace Church, (Dover, DE)

Reverend Dave Lort,
(Townsend DE)


10 Responses to “A Pastoral Statement on Euthanasia and Imposing Death by Starvation and Dehydration”
  1. Gary says:

    Gary Knapp
    Pastor, East Gate Presbyterian Church
    Millsboro, DE

  2. sheila says:

    i was so happy to read a pastor perspective on the removal of feeding tubes. this has been an extremly emotional issue with me since the terri schiavo case. i have become more active in the cause. it saddens me terribly to hear so many cases of euthenasia by removing a feeding tube. we certainly live in a culture of death. you would think we would have learned from the nazi, but, we didnt, or we forgot awfully quickly.
    one can only imagine what the heavenly Father is feeling as He watches in our eternal homes, His children deciding whose life is worth it or whose life isnt. never mind that He has stated all lives are worth living. everyone.

  3. Add me as another signatory:

    from Heritage Pres. Church (New Castle, DE)

  4. Julie says:

    Thank you for this!

    I especially like when you said, “Human suffering is a reminder of our need of the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal life that comes through His atoning death and resurrection.” I think a lot of this happens because people are afraid and don’t know what to do with suffereing. But it has a purpose, and as humans, we are all pretty much guaranteed to suffer.

  5. Dave Lort says:


    Thanks for you work on this.

    Rev.Dave Lort, Townsend DE

  6. Jeff Rakes says:

    Jeff Rakes, Assistant Pastor, Grace Church (PCA), Dover, DE

  7. Dorothy R. says:

    I read this posting with mixed feelings. My husband’s grandma is terminally ill and has been in the care of Hospice. She recently suffered a stroke and had been steadily declining, but most recently, she stopped eating on her own and became less and less responsive. She then slipped into a coma and has not been given anything for a week, not even an IV. Everyone sits by her bedside and just waits for her to die. Is this wrong? Should she have been given a feeding tube and IV to prolong her death, even if she remained unresponsive? Or is it just her time to die? She has been in a coma for 6 days with no major changes. I don’t know how to feel about this. Was the family wrong in their choice to not provide nutrition and fluid via IV and feeding tube?

  8. Gary says:

    Dear Dorothy,

    I am sorry to hear about your husband’s grandmother.

    Without being directly involved I would first think it important to know why your relative is unresponsive, you have mentioned the stroke of course but in addition is she being heavily sedated through Hospice? Here is a place where we have to be careful in terms of judging unresponsiveness, often a patient might be responsive at least at some level but because of sedative pain medication they may be kept from showing any signs.

    One would wonder what harm could be done in making sure someone is hydrated at least? If the body is not going to receive nutrition the rejection will become obvious.

    When you mention prolonging her death I do think that a primary premise of the Pastoral Statement is important which is, who determines the moment of death, is it us with our decisions and actions or lack of actions or God?

    As a matter of faith I think we must believe that if God has determined that a person’s life is going to end it is going to end whether or not we medicate, hydrate or feed.

    It is this conviction that God is in control that should lead us to make sure we have done all that we can, not neccearily to bring about someone’s healing for it may be their time to die but to make sure that we are not imposing their death and putting them through the terrible process of starving and dehydrating.

    For all our good intentions so many of our actions in this realm are based upon a belief or actually lack of belief that God determines the moment of our death. We believe we are prolonging, yet we cannot prolong if God has determined to end. As my exposure to these things grows I wonder why we do not want to make sure a person receives this most basic provision (food and water)? How do we know that they do not sense hunger and thirst?

    If I seem to sound like I think I know it all, please believe me when I say I don’t think I know it all. I do know something very simple though: God is in control of of the beginning and end of our lives and for this reason our providing someone with the basic provisions for life can only be a good thing for it will ensure that they do not suffer.

    Deuteronomy 32:39
    “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”

    Psalm 31:14-15
    “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand…”

  9. Dorothy R. says:

    Thank you for your quick reply. After I posted my initial comment, I had read some other thoughts, especially from a Hospice website, that said that it is wrong the “force-feed” someone who is dying and had a natural cessation of eating and drinking. It said that this may even cause them more suffering. I understand what you are saying about God ultimately being in control, but do you believe that someone should be allowed to die naturally, or should we always be in the mode of preserving life?

  10. Lenore H. says:

    Greetings……I realize this posting is very old, but it is still relevant.

    I am glad to have come across this article and appreciate very much the comments others have written here. They are very helpful as I struggle with the way my own Dad died.

    He was in a hospice facility for a 5 day respite ONLY – to give my Mom a needed break as she was his caregiver. He was not to be given any medication as he was never in any pain or discomfort/agitation. Instead they gave him 5 different sedative drugs.

    When he was dropped off my Mom fed him cereal and milk. Within 1/2 hour of her leaving him (he was still hungry), they put him on “no food or drink”. I thought food and drink was a right in our country. We are not talking about a feeding tube here.

    We believe he was involuntary euthanized. And it is amazing to me that many Christians go along with this. They are comforted to know their loved one did not suffer (even though they never were in any pain to begin with).

    This subject is much needed within the church and I know it is not always clear as each situation is different.

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