I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma for a few days now. The dilemma is this: is omission a sin?
It seems straightforward at first.
But I have had to dig deep into myself and what God has shown me to find an answer.
A few years ago, my father died from an incurable brain tumour. Nothing the medical industry did was ever going to save, or even prolong his life. But they tried anyway. They removed a tumour the size of a grapefruit from his head, and he was then subjected to intensive chemo and radiotherapy sessions that they knew wouldn’t cure him.
How does this fit with this topic?
Simple. My dad’s last few weeks were spent largely in a state of nausea and vomiting from the chemical and radiation he was put through. It would have been kinder to rather let him live those weeks peacefully at home and slip away quietly instead of what he was put through, but he (and we) wasn’t given a choice.
There’s the crux. Choice.
Is it sin for a terminally ill person to refuse chemotherapy when they know it won’t save them?
No, I don’t believe it is.
But what about other illnesses? Cancer is one thing, but what of diabetes, cholesterol, HIV etc? They all kill, but the medication can prevent it pretty much indefinitely until old age gets us.
I think the choice is what’s made at the time of diagnosis, and the progression of the illness itself at that point. I cannot stress that sentence enough – at the time of diagnosis.
I believe in healing of the body as part of God’s atonement through Christ. I also take medication for diabetes. The two are not contrary philosophies. It is simply that my faith muscle has not developed to the point where I can stop taking the meds in the certain knowledge that my faith is complete. Actions do not produce Faith, rather it is Faith that produces action. So I wait.
But what of someone who has one of these treatable “chronic” conditions and has had for some time. Add depression to the mix, and suicide is an absolute “no”, would the simple cessation of medication be considered sin?
Now I may step on some toes here.
I believe it would. If the reason for the cessation is to prematurely terminate your life, the the act of conscious omission of medication is actually a commission of a wilful act itself. It is different if no treatment has ever been taken or available, but the conscious decision to stop treatment is an act of commission, not omission.
I don’t know how I would respond if I were to be told I had HIV. I would probably take medication simply because these days there is no reason a person shouldn’t live a long, healthy and normal life with that particular illness (assuming they are not healed).
Others may choose differently. If the illness has progressed to it’s final stage before it is detected then perhaps they may choose to make peace with the world and live out their final days. I don’t believe that choice, at the point of diagnosis, would be sinful.
The real question is whether it would be sin to change your mind later. If after a period of time things get rough before they have time to get better, is it acceptable to quit treatment? Humanistically, the answer is clear – yes. From a Christian’s perspective it’s more hazy. By choosing to omit treatment that has been started in order to shorten your life, that is the commitment of an act, not the omission of one.
Declining treatment at first is one thing. Using cessation as a means of ending one’s life may not be the fastest of prettiest of methods, but it is still taking one’s own life. And by so doing, rejecting Christ’s sacrifice as insufficient.
Sorry if this sounds hard, but I’ve never said this blog would be gentle – only what I find to be Truth.
There are many times in the Old Testament where God judges Israel for being half-hearted towards him. Jesus spits the luke-warm church out of His mouth in Revelation.
Either we trust Him, and yes – that may involve using medication – or we don’t.
I’ve trusted Him for almost 30 years. I’ve seen my health go in both directions, but since I was told there was diabetes in me I’ve never had the degeneration generally associated with the illness. My sight is fine and, albeit for now with medication, my blood sugar is normal.
I believe I will see the day I no longer need the meds I take.
I commit myself to Him again each day, and try to make sure if there are any omissions, they are accidental.