Life’s End

Thoughts on one’s own finiteness

‘A time to be born, and a time to die’ (Eccles. 3:2). Following the thoughts of the preacher Solomon, the question arises today as to how much time we give ourselves for living and dying. The desire for a long life and the hope of a quick death without suffering and pain go hand in hand. Medicine and biotechnologies have contributed much to the realization of this wish. But there is one thing that medicine cannot do, even in the foreseeable future: spare people from dying and death. On the contrary, the question arises as to whether many life-sustaining measures only prolong dying instead of enabling life.

Frailty, need and dying do not fit well into a society that emphasizes self-determination, sovereignty and activity. When the ideal of the liberal image of the person can no longer be recognized in one’s own reflection, uncomfortable and often suppressed questions become unavoidable: along with our life, do we also have authority over our death? How far does human self-determination go and what scope should it have? What can a person assert a right to? What should happen when suffering, pain, and the experience of meaninglessness become overwhelming and almost unbearable?

These questions also challenge the church and theological ethics. What do the Bible, the Christian tradition and a carefully reflective ethics say about the drama of extraordinary human situations? What are their implications for a dignified death? The statements prepared by the PCS present answers to these questions from a church and social perspective.


Frank Mathwig, Senior Theology and Ethics Officer