When Is It Right to Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan Updated Edition. 208 pages. 2018
There are few people I respect more than Joni Eareckson Tada. She has had tremendous influence since a diving accident left her in a wheelchair fifty years ago. I’ve read many of her books and seen her speak at conferences. This is a revised edition of a book that she wrote 25 years ago. Much has changed during that time. When the book was first written, some of what is covered in this helpful new edition was only theoretical.
The book goes beyond the theoretical to the practical. Joni helps us make the moral judgments we will all be faced with. She brings what she and her family have learned from going through the dying process with her father. She writes about her own periods of depression, suicidal thoughts, severe pain and also breast cancer.
She writes about physician assisted suicide, which is now legal in five states in the U.S. She recalls the case of Terri Schiavo case, who was deemed to be in a “persistent vegetative state”, and other stories from the headlines, but indicates that most of these stories never make the headlines. She shares heart-breaking letters that have been sent to her.
Joni tells us that 44,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and many, many more attempt it, in addition to those who take advantage of states that provide physician’s assisted suicide. Why the increase in those taking their own life? Joni states that it is often due to pain and no hope for relief. This much and no more.
She shares several answers that people give as to when it is right to die (when it’s too expensive to live, mercy, pain, etc.). She writes that unfortunately 38% of evangelicals support in certain cases “mercy killing”. She defines the various terms in the conversation (euthanasia, physician’s assisted suicide, etc.).
Scripture says that death is the final enemy. Joni writes that you have the right to live. She writes how your decision for life matters to others, to yourself and to the enemy, and to God.
She shows from the Bible that God is opposed to mercy killing, but that it is acceptable to let dying people die. The act of dying does not need to be prolonged. End of life decisions are difficult. She recommends an Advanced Care Directive, as opposed to a Living Will. She recommends that you assist your loved ones by documenting your wishes and revisit them often. Ask God to give you wisdom on these important decisions. Continue reading