This is more or less an extension of the Prayer and Miracle pages. There often comes a time when a doctor must make a decision to allow a patient to to die with some sort of dignity. In most cases, these patients are already brain dead, but are being kept alive through some sort of life support system. Take the Terri Schiavo case for example.
Terri Schiavo was a woman from Florida who went into cardiac and respiratory arrest after collapsing in her home. What caused her to collapse, I'm not really sure, but she suffered extensive brain damage as a result. Treatment and rehabilitation never improved condition, and she eventually ended up in a persistent vegetative state. Because of her PVS, Terri couldn't chew or swallow food, so she was given a feeding tube to supply her with nourishment. Terri's brain had literally turned to liquid, a condition known as hydrocephalus ex vacuo.
Eventually, Terri's husband would petition to have the feeding tube removed, as this was really the only thing keeping her alive. He had mentioned many times that Terri had always indicated that she would not want to be kept alive in this manor, and he was following her wishes in having the tube removed.
Terri's parents got involved and sued to have the tube reinserted. In time, the case became a long drawn out battle in the courts. The governor of Florida would get involved, as well as the president of the United States, in order to keep Terri on the feeding tube. Even Pope John Paul II put his two cents worth in.
Terri's husband wanted to preserve his wife's wishes and let her die with dignity. The religious right, namely the fundamental Christian conservatives, said that allowing the tube to be removed and letting Terri die was "playing God". These fundamentalists said that only God had a right to decide who lives and who dies. Prayer vigils were held for Terri to get better, and to prove the doctors wrong. People also prayed that the courts would force the doctors keep the feeding tube in. A lot of prayers went out to keep Terri in this persistent vegetative state regardless. Every one of these prayers failed. The courts eventually said that the feeding tube was to be removed, in which case it was, and Terri died of dehydration approximately two weeks later.
This is the problem I have with what Christians believe. They believe that doctors who help keep people alive are "doing their job". However, if doctors allow someone to die, for whatever reason, then they are "playing God". Isn't saving someone's life or keeping them alive also "playing God"? Aren't you still deciding that person's fate? If allowing a person to die is "playing God", then God must only kill people or prevents them from living. It's up to doctors to keep someone alive, not God.
If you believe that allowing a person to die is "playing God", then you should also believe that helping to keep someone alive is also "playing God". If God wants to keep someone alive, then he can surely step in. God should be able to keep someone alive whether that person is kept on life support or not. If a person is taken off life support, and that person dies, then that would be God's fault, not the doctor's.
Christians believe that God is the ultimate physician, but he seems to be doing a poor job at preventing peoples death due to injuries or illness. That is left up to the human physicians; they will just have to play God.
© 2009 Derrick Miller