Can stopping all medications be considered suicide?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have stopped taking all medications for my health and placed myself at God's will. Can this be called suicide?

Expert Answer

Shelly Beach, MRE, is a seminary graduate; instructor at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan; author of seven books; and contributor to The NIV Stewardship Study Bible. She speaks nationally on faith, writing, and caregiving and is a host on the website Help for My Life in roundtable discussions on care issues. Beach's most recent release is Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.

Your circumstances must be extremely painful for you to have made the difficult decision to stop taking your medications while questioning whether or not your actions were considered suicide. My hope and prayer is that you are surrounded by supportive friends and family as you worked through your choice.

The Bible teaches that human life is sacred, that each life is a gift of intimate value bestowed by God. We are made in the image of God, created with an eternal destiny (Genesis 1:27). Suicide is typically regarded as a deliberate act that causes the intentional death of an individual to relieve their suffering. Because suicide is the intentional taking of God-given life, it is morally wrong. However, withholding or withdrawing a medical treatment that prolongs a dying process is not suicide. The Christian faith teaches that death is a transition from earthly life to eternal life (2 Timothy 4:6-8). When a terminal illness is present, competent adults should be allowed to refuse treatment or request removal of treatment and make preparations for death. This preparation should involve spiritual preparation, legal preparation, and informing loved ones of their wishes through medical care directives, and communicating priorities regarding personal matters.

Your question makes it difficult to discern whether or not you are struggling with a terminal illness. No matter your circumstances, I would offer the following suggestions:

Seek the advice of your medical doctors. Your diagnosis and prognosis would certainly be important factors to consider in any decision regarding the withholding of life-sustaining medications.

Lean on trusted family members and friends. When we're ill, it can be difficult for us to sort through complex medical information. Be certain you're evaluating the counsel of trusted family and friends.

Seek spiritual counsel from your pastor or priest. Life-and-death decisions should be made with the best possible spiritual guidance.

Be sure you have accurate information that relates to your circumstances:
1.Is your condition considered terminal, or is there reasonable hope that your illness could be successfully treated?

2.What is your current quality of life, and how will your illness affect your quality of life in the future?

3.What are the functions of your medications? What physical effects can you expect when you withdraw these drugs?

4.Are you making your decision in a depressive state?

5.Are you being pressured by others to make your decision?