The U.S. Supreme Court has before it a case that advocates the constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
The Supreme Court justices were asked in early January by New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco to overturn two federal appeals-courts decisions in 1996 that supported doctor-assisted suicide in lawsuits brought in New York and Seattle.
The case could be to suicide what the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision was to abortion.
Among the right-to-die proponents are euthanasia activist Derek Humphry and Michigan's Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has assisted at least 45 suicides, most of whom were not terminally ill.
The notion that persons have the right to take their own lives, or decide when they want to die, and that this has become part of a national debate is tragic.
However, such a challenge to society's fundamental values and the laws of God is in keeping with the "culture of death" permeating Western society with great intensity in recent decades.
Life has become cheap, disposable. The assault that began against the womb, has shifted to the threshold of the tomb.
It is but a short step from allowing physicians to hasten a patient's death, to opening the gates to anyone contemplating suicide for whatever reason, a key argument of opponents of such a "right."
Most states have laws against suicide. However, in 1994 Oregon voters passed the nation's first law legalizing doctor-assisted suicide.
Yet, when individuals feel that they are a law unto themselves, desiring to do whatever pleases them, the effects become detrimental to society. Consider that more than 30 million humans in this country have met an untimely end through abortion since 1973.
The Orthodox Church opposes murder, whether it be suicide, euthanasia or whatever, and regardless if it is cloaked in terms like "death with dignity".
A person contemplating ending it all because of despondency instead should turn to God for strength and support. The Book of Job serves as a prime example of how someone overcomes extreme suffering by staying focused on God.
And Christians should do a better job of ministering with greater compassion to the terminally ill, whether they suffer from cancer, AIDS or other illness, to help ease their suffering.
We have contemporary role models who have had to endure pain and suffering, but did not give in to despondency.
But such examples and biblical teachings such as the body being the temple of God, and "you are not your own, you were bought with a price" fall on deaf ears in our contemporary hedonistic society. As Derek Humphry observed in a recent book, "Religion no longer has the hold it once did."
Pro-death proponents continuously raise the cry that they do not want anyone (read Christians) "forcing" their values on society. Yet this is exactly what this group has been doing through the courts and legislatures for years.
Life is a precious gift from our Creator. By throwing it away, or by condoning the efforts of those who would compel others to do so, we show the ultimate ingratitude and will someday pay the price.
This editorial was published in the Orthodox Observer, the national newspaper of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (link closed).