November 21, 2009 Q & A

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 http://opc.org/documents/LCLayout2.pdf, 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.



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