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Question and Answer

Advance Directives for Health Care


Does the OPC have a stance on Advance Directives for Health Care? In particular should a Christian have an advanced directive that states my life is not be extended by life-sustaining procedures including the administration of nutrition and hydration artificially?


As a denominational body, the OPC has no official position on advance medical directives. As I have reflected on this matter over the years, I am increasingly convinced it does not lend itself to absolute "do this in every situation" type policies. Rather, I believe the particulars of each situation must be considered carefully in the light of God's Word.

I am glad you are giving thought to these matters now rather than when a medical emergency is pressing. I recommend you schedule an appointment with your pastor to get his advice as to what you should do. (If you do not presently have a church home, you can begin looking by making use of the "Find a Local Congregation" feature.) He will be best suited to help you sort out your various concerns and ensure your approach to them is solidly biblical.

Were a member of my congregation to seek my advice in this matter, I would ask him to first consider the 6th Commandment as it is explained in questions 134-136 of our Larger Catechism. (Historically, Presbyterians have organized our ethical obligations under the headings of the Ten Commandments. You can find the Larger Catechism, with Scripture proofs, at, pp. 273-76.) Give attention to how the Larger Catechism unpacks our duties to preserve human life, and study the Scripture passages on which these teachings are based. This will be a good way to organize your own thoughts on the matter and enable you to determine what questions to ask your pastor.

Because these issues do not lend themselves to easy answers, we can be thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit who inspired and illuminates the Bible for us. I pray he will lead you into all wisdom as you seek to honor your Lord, Jesus Christ, in these decisions.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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