Rick Warren opposes California Bill allowing terminally ill to end their lives

(Photo: Reuters / Tami Chappell)

Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren is no stranger to suffering, having lost his son to suicide, but he is adamant that assisted suicide is not the answer to the difficult reality of pain and terminal illness.

The Saddleback pastor is taking a stand against California Senate Bill 128, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill. 

His own son Matthew took his life on April 5, 2013, after a lifelong battle with mental illness.

Senate Bill 128, also known as the End of Life legislation, would allow an adult confirmed to be terminally ill by a physician to request medication for the purpose of ending their life.  It would not permit mercy killings, active euthanasia, or ending a patient's life by lethal injection.

Warren spoke out against the Bill as part of a faith panel which advocated excellence in end of life care as the best way of handling terminal illness.

"I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years," he said, according to the OC Register.

He acknowledged that the prospect of dying could be "frightening", but added: "We belong to God, and death and life are in God's hands.

"We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives."

The campaign to legalize assisted suicide has gained momentum since the high profile death of Brittany Maynard.  The 29-year-old was surrounded by loved ones when she ingested life-ending medication on November 1 last year in the state of Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal.

She chose assisted suicide after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the start of the year and spent her final months proactively campaigning for the legalization of assisted suicide.

Since his son's suicide, Rick Warren and his wife Kay have started working in mental health ministry to raise awareness of the issue.

Easter marked the two-year anniversary of Matthew Warren's passing and his father appealed for prayers for the family as they spent the season remembering him.

The Saddleback Church pastor wrote on Facebook: "On this Easter week two years ago, my son Matthew ended his life, and his 27-year battle with mental illness. That day, April 5th, coming 5 days after Easter, was the worst day of my life.

"On a day where everything in me wants to be quiet and low-key, be alone at home with my Lord and my wife and kids, and just get through the day without having to interact or be 'on' or celebrate anything ... instead I will be leading multiple Easter services on the biggest Christian day of the year."

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