There are very few cases of suicide that I would consider dignified. And yes, even though it is intended only for those who are terminally ill, and even though the Oregon law that I-1000 is modeled after lists the cause of death in these cases as the offending disease; taking your own life with or without assistance is suicide.
We are mortal, so from the moment we are conceived, we are journeying towards eventual death and any purposeful actions we take to end our lives early is categorically suicide.
However, there can be dignity in suicide, but it won’t be found in a self serving suicide, rather real death with dignity comes from self sacrifice and putting the needs of others ahead of your own.
Christ is obviously one example, but Samson is someone who also comes to mind when I think of suicide as death with dignity.
“O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it
Judges 16:28-30 NIV
Samson was willing to sacrifice his own life, but even so deferred to God for approval. He took his own life, yet still died with dignity, a dignity that came from doing God’s will right up to his last breath.
We Christians especially, have no right to pursue suicide, nor will we find dignity in doing our will with God’s body.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
Yes, as explained by Paul, our bodies do belong to God and not us. Furthermore, in accepting Christ we committed to using these bodies for His will on earth even when it is not convenient and sometimes even through prolonged suffering and tribulation. I suspect that reneging on this agreement by taking one’s own life, puts a person’s salvation on shaky ground.
And did I say suffering and tribulation? Yes, I did. That is what we should expect. It is what was dished for Christ during his stint in our world and as always, we should look to his example to guide us in our actions.
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Christ was suffering to the point of death, even asking God to be relieved of this life and yet in spite of this unprecedented suffering, He still acknowledged that it is the Father’s will, not His, that was important. Christ continued to suffer until his death.
But that was Christ, what about us regular Christians here on this earth. Take a look at Paul and his suffering in a Roman jail. In his letter to the Philippians, we read about how he was torn between suicide and continuing to preach Christ’s message as long as possible.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,
Paul made a dignified choice to suffer until death; he lived and preached many years beyond the time he wrote this letter. He suffered until his martyr’s death and he never put his needs ahead of Christ’s by way of suicide.
God can take us out with but a thought. The fact that we are still here, means that God wants us to still be here. As Paul and Jesus did, we need to respect God’s will and put His will a head of ours. And regardless of personal and family suffering, we need to remember that a dignified death is one in which we fight for God’s purpose with every last ounce of life that He gave to us. That is a good race; that is dignity.