Q&A: Advice on Advance Directives for Healthcare

Advice on Advance Directives for Healthcare

Question

I'm very ill. What is your advice on advance directives for health care? Should a Christian have an ADHC (living will or personal directive) that states their life is not to be extended by life-sustaining procedures or do not resuscitate orders (DNR).

Answer

We're so very sorry that you are so ill.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace (Num. 6:24-26).

This is a very important question and it is encouraging that you are giving this matter such serious thought. This is a godly example for others to follow.

First, I would schedule an appointment with your pastor to help in sorting out all the various issues in making such decisions. Indeed, reflecting upon God's Word, prayer, and direction from the Holy Spirit are imperatives during such times as these.

Personally, I would extensively study the sixth commandment. The Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) can be a valuable outline for thought to discuss with your pastor. Questions 134-136 of the WLC somewhat unpack Exodus 20:13, including ones' duties to preserve human life:

Q. 134. Which is the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?

A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.

Also relating to this is Ephesians 5:28-29, and it seems to be one truth that speaks to me personally. In effect, it says that we should love our own bodies and nourish and cherish them. This is what Christ does for his church second-by-second, and I believe he counsels us to do the same personally. However, no two situations are exactly alike, and there are different ways of loving, nourishing, and cherishing our own bodies.

And of course we should love one another as well in all the various ways available to us. (John 13:34-35).

These types of decisions don't lend themselves to simple answers. Such times as this can be rather confusing. As previously stated, prayer and meditation upon God's Word are key. The comfort of family, friends and one's church may very helpful too. The Holy Spirit will give wisdom as together all seek to glorify God during these times (Eph. 1:17; cf. Prov. 18:15).

May God bless you and your family.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).