Me Before You premiered in theaters last night and is showing in wide release today. This is Jojo Moyes’s much-anticipated movie adaptation of her 2012 novel by the same name. I’m not especially a fan of romance novels. Nonetheless, I read the book and saw the movie because of their larger agenda: the escalating debate over euthanasia.
Without giving away the plot, I can tell you that one of the two main characters is disabled. The other main character was hired to help him choose not to end his life. However, Moyes treats this option so supportively that several disability advocates have lodged strong protests.
Ellen Clifford is an activist with Not Dead Yet, an organization that campaigns against assisted suicide. According to her, “the message of the film is that disability is tragedy and disabled people are better off dead . . . It comes from a dominant narrative carried by society and the mainstream media that says it is a terrible thing to be disabled.”
Actress and disability rights activist Liz Carr agreed, calling Me Before You “offensive to disabled people, the vast majority of whom want to live—not die.” Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition went even further, calling for a boycott of the movie. Other disabled activists have adopted the film’s #LiveBoldly hashtag and repurposed it to argue against euthanasia.
Here’s why I agree with them.
As I have written previously, humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:28; 9:6: 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9). So long as we retain the ability or potential to relate to ourselves, others, our environment, and God, we retain this “image.”
Therefore, we should not choose medical options that are intended to cause or hasten death, secure in the knowledge that it is God who gives us life (Job 33:4), numbers our days (Job 14:5), and appoints our time to die (Hebrews 9:27). However, we can choose to die naturally—and even choose medical treatments that enhance our quality of life while shortening it—so long as causing death is not our intention.
But this is not what our postmodern culture believes. We’re told that truth is whatever we believe it to be. As a result, life is ours to do with as we wish. We can choose our gender identity, marry whomever we wish, abort unwanted children, and end our lives whenever we choose.
The “death with dignity” movement reflects this worldview. Canada’s prime minister recently introduced legislation to legalize euthanasia in his country. California is the latest state to legalize physician-assisted suicide; its law takes effect next Thursday. (For more, see Nick Pitts’s California Governor Signs Physician Assisted Suicide Bill.) Expect “death with dignity” advocates to carry their movement across the country.
Me Before You advances their cause by portraying euthanasia as a courageous and loving decision. But the opposite is actually true. To live with grave physical challenges is much harder than to end the struggle. To give those you love the gift of yourself, no matter what limitations you face, is far more compassionate than to deny them your life.
You are God’s unique gift to the world. Every new day is his message that your life should continue. Then, when your Father calls you home, you will hear the most joyful words in all eternity: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
And all it cost you to be faithful will be rewarded by the One who is faithful forever.