Saturday, February 27, 2010

Helping people to die

So, it's happened. A day after a plea by Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the law on assisted suicide should not be changed, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has issued his new guidelines on when people should and should not be prosecuted for assisting suicide - a move some have interpreted as a ploy to allow assisted suicide in Britain without the law being altered by Parliament.

"The law - together with the values and standards of our caring professions - " the Prime Minister wrote in the Daily Telegraph, "supports good care, including palliative care for the most difficult of conditions; and also protects the most vulnerable in our society. . .

"The risk of pressures - however subtle - on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existence burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions - if they were in a position to end life - would be to lose something very precious."

Assisting someone commit suicide is illegal, plain and simple. But in an "astonishing" decision by the law lords which was described this week by ethics expert Professor John Keown as "unprecedented and unsound, if not unconstitutional," the law was required to be "clarified" by the DPP being obliged to state under what circumstances he would and would not prosecute, thus spelling out to people when they would be able to commit assisted suicide and avoid court action.

(Some MPs considered that the judiciary was "overriding the will of Parliament." A few promised to do something about it; but if they have done something about it of consequence, apart from their first verbal protest, I haven't heard what it is.)

The DPP provided interim guidelines in September, along with a public consultation. The final guidelines he announced this week.

It has to be said that the guidelines are not as bad as they might have been. The number of factors where prosecution will be unlikely have been reduced from 13 to six. One that has been scrapped is where the victim is disabled or terminally ill, although not where the victim is fit and well, which people complained discriminated against the disabled.

The 16 factors where the DPP might be inclined to bring charges include where the suspect is a doctor or nurse caring for the victim; in other words, no physician-assisted suicide. And where the suspect belongs to an organisation providing premises where people can commit suicide; in other words, no suicide clinics.

But there are still dangers. Helping a loved one commit suicide "out of compassion" will not invite court action, although the suspect may benefit financially from the death.

Much will depend on how the guidelines are implemented. This is how it all began in the Netherlands, with "strict guidelines" - guidelines that were interpreted more and more widely until the Netherlands practised euthanasia for newborn babies and adults who hadn't requested it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Consider the facts, Mr Balls

According to a report in the Daily Mail this week, Ed Balls, the UK Government's Children's Secretary, said that faith schools must teach that homosexuality is normal and harmless.

Normal? Homosexual practice is not normal. It is abnormal.

And harmless? The medical profession says that carefully documented studies show that male homosexuals have a much higher incidence of sexually related disease, as well as viral infections such as herpes, hepatitis A and B and HIV, with one study showing 72 per cent of male HIV infection in the UK acquired through homosexual practice.

It says that multiple partners, unsafe sexual practices and substance abuse are more common in homosexuals, leaving homosexuals at risk of psychiatric conditions; that suicidal tendencies are higher in homosexual and lesbian young people; and that male homosexuals are three times more likely to have seriously contemplated or attempted suicide, and 12 times more likely to have had a major depressive disorder than their heterosexual counterparts.

What other subject can there be besides sex education where teachers are going to be forced by law to teach things they do not believe? What other subject can there be where teachers are going to be forced to teach things they know are not true?

Having said all of that, homosexuals should be treated with love and respect. The Bible says that homosexual practice is sin, but says that we have all sinned in one thing or another. To accept homosexuals as people, while recognising the responsibility to speak out about the dangers of a homosexual lifestyle, is not to accept their way of life.

Mr Balls was speaking, of course, of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which will make sex education mandatory for children from five years old and which completed its course through the House of Commons this week. We'll see now what the House of Lords will do with it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kingdom rules OK

On TV recently I saw a man being interviewed on the street. The interview was taking place somewhere in the United States.

The man being interviewed was half drunk. He said he did not read the Bible and admitted he was a liar, a thief, an adulterer and a blasphemer, but he was adamant that he was going to heaven because he had accepted Christ as his Saviour.

Unless he repents, that man is in for a serious shock.

When God made the world, He made it perfect. Because man needed to be subject to God's authority, God told him there was one thing he must do. It wasn't a difficult thing. He must not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Bible scholars believe Satan was originally an angelic being named Lucifer (see Isa 14:12 - 15 and Ezek 28:11 - 17). Lucifer was not satisfied with his position. Because he wanted to be like God, he rebelled.

Satan tempted man with the same spirit of rebellion. He succeeded. Man ate the fruit of the tree and fell into Satan's hand. Satan became the prince of this world.

In due time, Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom (see Matt 4:23). He sent His disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom (see Matt 10:7). The Bible says that one day the gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come (see Matt 24:14).

The gospel of the kingdom says there is another kingdom apart from Satan's kingdom called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. If you repent of your sins and will believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and that He is lord, you are able to be transferred from Satan's kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.

Unfortunately, some people today don't preach the gospel of the kingdom. They preach "Jesus loves you." This is true, but it is only half the story. By accepting half the story, people believe they can have God's forgiveness and still make their own decisions about how they live.

That's not true. If people are to be in the kingdom, they must live by the laws of the kingdom and be subject to the King.

Only in Satan's kingdom, and nowhere else, can you live how you please.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When man becomes God

The trouble with us as a nation is that we are a nation away from God. As a result, we have become more individualistic, more selfish. My life is my own, we say, and I can do what I like with it.

If we have an unwanted pregnancy, we can get rid of it by killing the unborn child. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with my right to choose. That's why we are now talking about allowing assisted suicide. Old people and sick people are a nuisance. They affect my autonomy. They interfere with my right to live my life as I want to.

Once upon a time, in a more godly age, we would have been afraid to take innocent human life. With God pushed out of the way, we can do it with impunity. The Bishop of Durham recently made a valuable point. If you get rid of God, he said, you inflate yourself to be divine instead.

In a recent article, Wesley J. Smith, the American pro-life commentator, warned what is likely to happen in the UK if assisted killing is permitted here. He quotes the case of the assisted suicide of Myrna Lebov in Manhattan in 1995:

The case generated national headlines in the States - as so many recent UK assisted suicides have - when Lebov's husband, George Delury, announced that he had assisted his wife's death at her request because she was suffering the debilitations of progressive multiple sclerosis.

Delury's defense of compassionate assistance quickly became a cause celebre. He was lauded as a dedicated husband willing to risk jail to help his beloved wife achieve her deeply desired end to suffering. Assisted suicide advocates tub-thumped for legalization, while some editorialists asked why doctors shouldn't be allowed to relieve such misery so that husbands wouldn't have to. Delury appeared on television and radio programs and spoke to a convention of the American Psychiatric Association. He quickly signed a book deal, later published under the title But What If She Wants To Die?

Today, a UK George Delury probably wouldn't be prosecuted, and indeed, might even be applauded by family members. But. . . the actual story eventually came out. The story it tells illustrates the danger presented to society's most vulnerable populations by the UK's current path.

In part because Lebov's sister launched a media crusade against Delury, and in part because he foolishly kept a computer diary - perhaps in preparation for his planned book - it soon became clear that George had put Myrna out of his misery. The diary showed that Lebov did not have an unwavering and long-stated desire to die, as Delury had claimed. Rather, as often happens with people struggling with debilitating illnesses, her moods waxed and waned. One day she would be suicidal - but the next day she was re-engaged with life.

Moreover, Delury worked assiduously at destroying his wife's will to live by making her feel like a worthless burden. In one of the many damning diary entries that came to light, he wrote about a plan to tell his wife: "I have work to do, people to see, places to travel. But no one asks about my needs. I have fallen prey to the tyranny of a victim. You are sucking my life out of my [sic] like a vampire and nobody cares. In fact, it would appear that I am about to be cast in the role of villain because I no longer believe in you." Delury later admitted that he had shown his wife that very passage.

With the diary's publication, Delury's planned "compassion" defense became inoperable and he quickly accepted a plea bargain that put him in jail for several months. But that still wasn't the end of the story. In But What If She Wants To Die - published after he became constitutionally immune from further prosecution - Delury wrote that he had smothered Lebov with a plastic bag because he was worried that the drugs she ingested might not be sufficient to kill her. . .

The Delury case, says Wesley Smith, needs to be kept firmly in mind as the UK decides whether public policies should punish all assisted suicides - or just those of the young, healthy and able bodied. Many apparently believe in the latter approach. But be warned. Approving assisted suicide of the most sick and disabled is like telling teenagers "Don't smoke, but if you do, use filter cigarettes." The decidedly mixed message will create the opposite effect of what might be intended.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The power of prayer

One of the greatest assets Christians have is prayer. Prayer has great power; greater than we often imagine. Prayer can change nations. To illustrate the point, Derek Prince tells how he was serving with the British Army in North Africa during the Second World War. For more than 700 miles the British had been in continuous retreat; morale, he says, was very low.

There I was, newly converted. I had not had any opportunity to attend church. All I had was the Bible and the Holy Spirit. I thought to myself, I ought to be able to pray about this situation intelligently. I knew I did not know what to pray. So I said in my naive way, "Lord, show me how You want me to pray."

The Lord gave me a specific answer, which was this prayer: "Lord, give us leaders such that it will be to Your glory to give us victory through them." I was less than a year old in the Lord when I prayed that prayer. I prayed it consistently.

Now I did not know what was happening, but God began to move swiftly. The British government appointed a new commander for their forces in the Middle East in North Africa. This man was flown back to Cairo to take command but his plane crashed on landing and he was killed. So at that very important time in the most active theater of the war, the British Forces were left without a commander.

In that situation, Winston Churchill, who was prime minister of Britain at the time, acted more or less on his own initiative and appointed an unknown officer who was flown out from Britain. His name was Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery was a committed Christian and a God-fearing man. He was also a very fine commander and a man of great discipline.

He went to work reorganizing the British forces. He restored discipline and morale; he changed the whole attitude and bearing and conduct of the officers. And then there was fought the well-known battle of El Alamein, which was the first major Allied victory in the whole of that theater of war. It reversed the course of war in North Africa in favor of the Allies.

I was serving with a military ambulance up in the desert, a little way behind the advancing British forces. On the tailboard of the truck there was a little portable radio. I listened as a news commentator described the preparations at Montgomery's headquarters just before the Battle of El Alamein was fought. He described how Montgomery came out and assembled his officers and men and said this: "Let us ask the Lord, mighty in battle, to give us the victory."

As I listened to those words, what I call "heaven's electricity" went through me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. God spoke quietly but firmly to my spirit and said, That is the answer to your prayer.

Thus, I learned early in my Christian experience that prayer can change the course of history. I read an article in a British newspaper on the 100th anniversary of Montgomery's birth in which it said that no British general in human history has ever conducted a more brilliant campaign than Montgomery conducted at that time in North Africa. As I prayed, God raised up a man who would give Him the glory. Do you believe that? Can you believe that your prayers can change history? That God will do things for you as you pray?

Now, some people may say, "Well, that's arrogant. I'm sure there were other people praying." There certainly were other Christians in Britain praying. But this is true as well: Even if just one person prayed, and prayed the prayer of faith, and met God's conditions, God has committed Himself to answer.

There are only two alternatives about prayer. Either God answers prayer or He does not. If He does not answer prayer it is foolish to pray, and if He does answer prayer it is foolish not to pray. I believe He answers prayer. That is my firm conviction. But the lesson I want to emphasize here is God has got to give you the prayer. Receiving it is like taking hold of a spear. When you take it, hold it out. Keep it held out. Don't draw it back.[1]

[1] Secrets of a Prayer Warrior. Baldock, Herts: Derek Prince Ministries International, 2009, p118f.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Middle East war soon?

Tomorrow is February 11. February 11 is the anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

On Sunday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported as saying that Iran will deliver a "harsh blow to global arrogance" on February 11. On Monday, Iran's Supreme Religious Leader and commander-in-chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "The Iranian nation, with its unity and God's grace, will punch the arrogance [Western powers] on the 22nd of Bahman [February 11] in a way that will leave them stunned."

US President Obama has ordered Patriot missiles sent to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. The US has two ships in the Gulf that are able to shoot down Iranian missiles. It is common knowledge that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons and has promised to wipe Israel off the map.

But Iran's next battle with Israel may not be fought by Iran, but through Iran's proxies. The Jerusalem-based military intelligence website says US intelligence has discovered detailed war plans drawn up by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas for 5,000 Hezbollah fighters trained in Iran to invade northern Israel, with rocket attacks from Lebanon, Hamas attacking Israel in the south and the east and Syria providing artillery and aircover.

It is interesting that Psalm 83 prophesies a time when Israel's enemies will form a confederacy against Israel, saying "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more."

Those involved, it says, are "The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagarites; Gebal, Ammon and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also." These are the names of peoples of Bible times; their descendants, we are told, are the Arab peoples now surrounding Israel. Iran is not listed among them.

Is is interesting too that Isa 17:1 prophesies that one day Damascus will be destroyed.

So what will happen tomorrow? Will there be an act of serious aggression, or are the Iranians' remarks mere rhetoric intended to support an increasingly unpopular Iranian regime? I don't know.

There is no doubt that war in the Middle East will come.

One thing is certain (or two things, if you like): God will have His way, and Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

'Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him'?

The other day someone was trying to convince me that Jesus was not God, but was Himself created. They couldn't do it. The Bible shows quite clearly that Jesus is God.

Try Psa 45:6, 7; Isa 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28, 29; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5, 6; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20.

The whole point of the Christian gospel is that man could not save himself, so God came down in the person of the Son and died in man's place so that man's sins might be forgiven (1 Tim 3:16).

Some Christians who would accept the deity of Christ have difficulty in accepting that He is a man. "No," they suppose, "He was a man, but He's God now." Not so. He is God, of course. He always was, and He always will be.

But He is still a man. Listen: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5, my italics). When Jesus took on human flesh, He didn't take it on for a lifetime, He took it on for ever.

At the resurrection, He arose physically from the dead. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself," He told the disciples. "Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). "Reach your finger here, and look at my hands," He told Thomas, "and reach your hand here, and put it into my side" (John 20:27). He ate food after He rose from the dead (Luke 24:41 - 43). When He went back to heaven, He took His body with Him.

The good news is that there is a man sitting on a throne in heaven, and He is representing me. The fact that He is in glory is evidence that I shall be there too. "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2, 3).

Jesus is wholly God and wholly man. He is entirely wonderful. He deserves my complete devotion. "Blessing," says Rev 5:13, "and honour and glory and power Be to him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, for ever and ever!"

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Alive, but unable to communicate

There has been a growing tendency in recent years to withdraw food and water from patients in a so-called vegetative state and starve them or dehydrate them to death. Here is one good reason why it should never happen.

Rom Houben, a 20-year-old student and martial arts enthusiast, was paralysed after a car crash in 1983. Doctors in Zolder, Belgium, used internationally accepted tests to assess eye, verbal and motor responses. They concluded that his consciousness was "extinct."

Three years ago his mother Josephine contacted neurologist Dr Steven Laureys, of Liege University. New state-of-the-art scans showed that Rom's brain was functioning in almost completely normal fashion. Although he had lost control of his body, for 23 years he had been conscious of everything that was happening.

He is still disabled, but a device over his bed allows him to read books, and after therapy he can communicate with family and friends via a specially adapted computer.

For 23 years he had no way of letting doctors, nurses, family or friends know that he could hear every word they said. He screamed - but there was no sound.

"I meditated. I dreamed my life away. It was all I could do. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt." He studied other patients. He listened to the conversation of the nurses, who were not embarrassed to speak about their boyfriends in front of him, believing he was not aware. "That made me an expert on relationships."

He says he will never forget the day they discovered what was really wrong with him. "It was my second birth. I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now."

Rom's mother said she and her husband always believed Rom was aware, but doctors would not believe them. When her husband died in 1997, she went to the hospital to tell Rom. "He shut his eyes. There were no tears, but he understood everything."

Recently, he told his mother via his computer: "Sorry I could not help you, Mummy, when Father went."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

So what does go on here?

What devious dealings are going on behind the scenes in an attempt to legalise assisted suicide? Are unelected civil servants, who are supposed to be impartial, using political means in an attempt to change the law?

And what is going to be the final result of the intense campaign for legalised assisted suicide by the chattering classes, aided by a sympathetic media?

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, claimed yesterday that mercy killing is being legalised on the back of a celebrity-driven campaign, without reference to Parliament.

He condemned what one newspaper called "the current bandwagon of fashionable opinion seeking to allow relatives to help the sick and dying commit suicide without fear of prosecution."

I wrote here how, after Parliament refused to legalise assisted suicide, the High Court and the Appeal Court refused Debbie Purdy a guarantee of non-prosecution for her husband if he accompanied her to a suicide clinic.

After she appealed to the House of Lords, Lord Phillips - who expressed sympathy in a newspaper interview for people desiring assisted suicide - said in announcing the decision of the highest court in the land that the law was unclear and that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, must state when he would prosecute for assisted suicide and when he would not.

The DPP did so, thus effectively allowing assisted suicide in some cases without Parliament having changed the law.

Mrs Kay Gilderdale appeared in court last week. Her daughter Lynn, who was in constant pain after 17 years of chronic ME, had died after taking a massive dose of morphine. Mrs Gilderdale, who had already admitted assisting suicide, was now charged with attempted murder (she was found not guilty of that charge).

At the trial, the judge, Mr Justice Bean, asked why a charge of attempted murder had been brought. He was told by the prosecuting barrister "It was thought at the highest level this should be a case that should be canvassed before a jury." This was taken to be a reference to the DPP, who felt obliged to issue a statement defending the prosecution.

Some MPs are reportedly of the opinion that the DPP brought the case as a "showpiece" to build public sympathy for making assisted suicide legal.

MP Ann Widdecombe has laid down an early day motion in the House of Commons, supported by MPs from both sides of the House, stating that the DPP's prosecution guidelines override the will of Parliament. It points out that before prosecution for theft or grievous bodily harm, unlike assisted suicide, "we are not told how much we can steal. . . or how much injury we can inflict."

It calls for the guidelines to be withdrawn, "leaving Parliament rather than the judiciary or unelected civil servants to consider whether to change the law, and making it clear to judiciary that they are not permitted to override the supremacy of Parliament."

The BBC, which claims to be impartial but shows evidence of being anything but, continued the barrage of publicity yesterday. "Hours of coverage," says the Daily Mail, "were given to a Panorama opinion poll. . . Sir Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's, was given the platform of the Richard Dimbleby lecture on BBC1 to call passionately for the establishment of a tribunal where people can seek legal permission to be allowed to die. . .

"There is. . . little doubt that Britain's liberal intelligentsia is cheerleading for assisted dying laws. Celebrities, Labour luminaries and lawyers, including the publicity-hungry Director of Public Prosecutions. . . are all aboard the bandwagon. . .

"But it is for law-makers who represent the people to decide - not bien pensant opinion."

The battle over assisted suicide goes on - but the question remains: what is going to be the effect of this dangerous campaign outside Parliament?