Peter's heart thumped in his chest as he drew up the lethal liquid. His mind was in turmoil, yet he knew it was time to end it all.
Professionally, he tapped the syringe to expel the air, then suddenly laughed at his action. Strange what creatures of habit we are. So what if I inject air as well?
"Hello, Dr Osborne, you're working late."
Startled, he slipped the syringe and vial into the pocket of his white coat before turning to face Sister Jones. Had she seen?
"And you're on duty early."
"I like to have the time to re-connect with the patients. Talking of which, I see poor John is still lingering on." She nodded towards the bed where the patient lay moaning and close to death.
"Yes. You wonder why God allows that kind of suffering. Maybe He wants us to do something about it."
"But what else can we do, Doctor? We are doing all we can."
"Does God want us to just stand by and watch that torment? Don't you sometimes think He wants us to -- to -- well just do a bit more."
Sister Jones looked hard and quizzically at the young intern. "When you have worked in a cancer ward as long as I have, you understand that we are looking at the tattered ends of the back of the tapestry of a man's life. It might seem ugly to you, but you don't know what God is weaving on the other side. We dare not pre-empt the work of God."
"But surely it would be kind. Aren't we in this profession to provide comfort?"
Sister Jones' eyes softened, but she spoke warily. "Yes, we are! But we must know our limitations. We cannot play God. Far better to bring someone to God and let Him deal with him."
Now that deadly syringe was burning a hole in his pocket. His heart was still thumping, this time with indecision. What should I do? The Death with Dignity people make so much sense. What use is John's life anymore? What sense in his suffering? Here on the frontline I surely have a responsibility to do something. Yet Sister Jones seems so sure... Well, he couldn't do anything while she was around. He'd think about it and come back tomorrow.
The next evening, with the syringe still in his pocket, he entered the ward, moving noiselessly to John. His heart was pounding, but he had made up his mind. Who else could put John out of his misery?
A young girl was at John's bed. John was quieter than usual. Curious, Peter stood behind the curtain listening.
"Daddy, I'm so glad you are still here. I only heard yesterday. Oh, I am so sorry. I've hurt you so much, Daddy. Please forgive me. I want you to know, I've been clean for six months now, but I've been too ashamed to come home. But I love you, Daddy." She sniffed, dabbing her eyes and nose with a tissue. "If God will spare you, you will see. I've changed. I want you to live so you can forgive me."
"He doesn't need to get better to forgive you, Mary."
Peter jumped. His skin prickled and his heart raced at the voice beside him. He had not noticed Sister Jones join him behind the curtain. Now she stepped forward and put her arm around the girl.
"Your father can hear you, though he might not be able to respond. If he could speak, I'd guess he'd like to ask your forgiveness, too. But more than that you both need God's forgiveness. Can I tell you how you can get that?"
Peter listened as Sister Jones told them about the love of Jesus and was struck to the heart as she quoted, "There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus." Tears stung his cheeks as Mary bowed her head beside her father and prayed. As peace settled on the trio, John fell into a deep restful sleep.
Peter tiptoed to the duty room and threw away the syringe. Sister Jones joined him later, her eyes shining. "Do you still want to end it all for John?" So she knew!
Peter looked sheepish. "I wouldn't have cut short that part of the tapestry for anything. Perhaps you can explain the forgiveness of God to me. I think I need it!"
In 1984 Holland made euthanasia legal, with strict guidelines for its control. But that control has been eroded. Now, even financial loss or loneliness are categorised as "unbearable suffering" and grounds for assisted suicide. In 1990, 9 percent of all deaths were from euthanasia or assisted suicide and the number rises each year. Many killed are done without the knowledge of the victim. They include the chronically ill, mentally ill, disabled and impaired babies. Many of the elderly in Holland carry a card in their wallets stating that in the event of their being hospitalised, they do not wish to be euthanised.
"For who has known the mind of the Lord that we may instruct Him?"(1Cor 2:16)
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