The Synod’s Sanctity of Human Life Committee issued a statement April 22 with the suggestion that Christians make use of the “Health Care Durable Power of Attorney” as an alternative to “living wills.”
The eight-person committee’s statement also recommends a number of resources for helping with end-of-life decisions.
Responding to what it terms “recent events in the national headlines [that] have initiated a dialogue among many Americans regarding end-of-life issues,” the committee’s statement offers “principles to guide our thoughts on these complex issues.”
“Many LCMS clergy and laity have found themselves in the midst of this emotional debate,” the committee says in its statement, “while struggling for clarity on these various issues themselves.”
The statement notes that the a “living will” and an “Advance Medical Directive” have become “almost synonymous … in the minds of many.” It then defines that directive as “any type of document that determines treatment if a person loses their ability to make those decisions.
“A Living Will is a type of Advance Directive,” the committee’s statement continues, ” but Christians must be aware that not all living wills are created equal and distinctions need to be made.”
“Living wills can often deprive people of the important conversations that should be happening at life’s end between the patient’s family, medical professionals, and clergy,” it says. “We cannot, unequivocally, determine beforehand our plan of care and successfully anticipate every circumstance, situation, and medical technology that might arise. Instead, every circumstance needs to be closely examined when it arises, tied closely to pastoral care and counseling, in order to determine and evaluate God-pleasing action for withholding treatment.
“With this in mind, the LCMS Sanctity of Human Life Committee suggests that Christians consider making use of the Health Care Durable Power of Attorney,” the committee proposes. “This legal document allows someone to designate a specific person to make health-care decisions for him or her if they become incapacitated. This ‘health-care proxy’ can, and should, be someone who shares the patient’s values and belief systems.”
“To be sure, this is a difficult and often confusing area of human existence,” the statement notes. “People have made, and will continue to make mistakes in their decision-making. But Christ’s death and resurrection offer forgiveness and comfort for all our decisions and actions in the past, present, and future.”
For the LCMS Sanctity of Human Life Committee’s entire statement and its list of recommended resources, go to http://worldrelief.lcms.org on the Web and click on “Read more” at either of two links on that page.
For more information about life-related issues, contact Maggie Karner, a member of the committee and director of Life Ministries with LCMS World Relief/Human Care, at (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1380; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted May 27, 2005