1 Is death ever good?
Man was created by God, in the image of God, male and female. (Gn.1:28) Death became part of the creation because of human sin. (cf. Gn.3:14-19, Rom.5:12) Death therefore is inevitable; (cf. Heb.9:27) we can do nothing to stop it, but death is also an enemy. (cf. 1 Cor.15:26, NASB) Do you embrace your enemies?
I am currently in my 21st year as a Registered Nurse. I have spent almost my entire career working in an intensive care unit. I’m certified as a Critical Care RN (CCRN). I have probably witnessed over 1000 deaths during my career and I assure you that there are no good deaths. Some are more horrific than others, but none are good. “Approximately 20% of deaths in the United States occur in ICU or following an ICU admission.”2
Death is an enemy of mankind. Nursing has two goals: 1) Save life. 2) Relieve human suffering. All too often these come into conflict and an ethical dilemma ensues. Most nurses in a critical care setting stay at the bedside 2-5 years, then they find something else to do. Suffering is the reason that nurses do not stay at the bedside. “Nurses working in an ICU, a NICU, on an Oncology unit, or in and ED come to work each day, aware that they will certainly witness suffering and that they are very likely to also see death.”3
What I wrote in my previous blog “Christian Ethical Decision Making” applies perfectly to the conflict of saving life and relieving human suffering. That last step is to make a decision that honors God; this must be put at the top of the hierarchal ladder of any decision-making process. If life can be saved but doing so causes human suffering; then the human must suffer, because all human life is sacred. If, however, it is determined that human life cannot be saved, relieving human suffering should be the goal.
1 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for A Brave New World, 2nd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 175.
2 Betty R. Ferrell and Nessa Coyle, The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 62.
3 Ibid, 88.