Menu Close

Should Every Possible Effort be Made to Preserve and Save Human Life?

calvin and hobbes death

Fundamentalist Christian Jeff Maples believes ALL life matters, and it should be protected at ALL costs. Here’s what Maples said on The Dissenter website in 2019:

Critics have argued that reimplanting a fetus from an ectopic pregnancy is a procedure “not known to medical science” and would place obstetricians and gynecologists in a dire situation for not performing an “impossible procedure.” However, the bill does not require doctors to be successful in the procedure, rather take all measures at attempting to do so. This would, in effect, advance the science behind the practice making it more likely to save lives in the future. When dealing with human life, it is imperative that all measures be taken to preserve it — an unborn child deserves no less than a two-year-old child or an adult. That’s the whole point of the measure.

I wonder if Maples really believes all life matters. I wonder if he is a pacifist or anti-capital punishment? I wonder if Maples opposed President Trump’s barbaric immigration policies; policies that led to the deaths of adults and children alike? Something tells me he is not as pro-life as he says he is. Most Evangelicals are schizophrenic when it comes to matters of life and death. Typically, Evangelicals, and their counterparts in the Roman Catholic church, only think all life matters before birth. After birth, humans are on their own. Well, that is until it comes time to die. Then Evangelicals show up to protest and criminalize end-of-life attempts to lessen suffering and pain. Humans must suffer to the bitter end. According to Evangelicals and Catholics, euthanasia is humans playing God, and that must never happen. In their eyes, physician-assisted suicide is murder.

Maples believes that every effort should be made to preserve life. No matter the cost or the outcome, life must be preserved. I am sure that Maples believes his anti-death viewpoint is noble. It’s not. Maples and others like him see no qualitative difference between a fertilized egg and a thirteen-year-old; no difference between a thirteen-week-old fetus and its mother; no difference between a teenager with a full life ahead of her and a ninety-year-old man who is nearing death. Such thinking, of course, is absurd.

I do my best to have a consistent life ethic. That said, all life is not equal, nor should every effort be made to preserve life. There is a qualitative difference between a fertilized egg and its mother. The fertilized egg represents potential life. It cannot live outside of the womb. That’s why I support the unrestricted right to an abortion until viability. Once a fetus is viable, then the mother and medical professionals must consider its interests along with that of the mother. When it comes to choosing between the fetus and the mother, the choice, to me anyway, is clear: the mother. Granted, if the mother is gravely ill with cancer or some other terminal disease, then consideration should be given to saving the fetus. Such decisions are never easy, but one thing is for certain: we don’t need Evangelicals and Catholics, their God, or Republican politicians deciding what should be done.

As someone who knows that he is on the short side of life, I don’t want the Jeff Maples of the world butting their noses into my end-of-life decisions or those of my family. I know how I want the end of my life to play out, as do my wife and children. I don’t want Christian Fundamentalists getting between me and my God. “Huh? Bruce, you don’t have a God.” Well, I do when it comes to this discussion. If Christians want to wallow in needless pain and suffering at the end of their lives — all so their mythical God will give them an “attaboy” — that’s fine by me. However, my triune God — humanism, science, and reason — doesn’t demand that I suffer unnecessarily; when it is my time to die it is okay for me to say, “No más.” I expect my doctors, Polly, and my six children to honor my wishes. I have seen far too many people endlessly and needlessly suffer, all so Jesus would be honored and their families would know that they fought to the end. I have watched countless dying people go through unnecessary, painful procedures and treatments, all so their spouses and children could rest easy knowing that every possible thing was done to preserve their life.

Sadly, many people ignorantly think that longevity of life is all that matters; that enduring surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation is worth it if it adds a few weeks or months at the end of their lives. Evangelicals speak of being ready to meet God. They sing songs about Heaven and preach sermons that suggest True Christians® yearn and long for eternal life in the sweet by and by. Yet, when it comes time to die, they are in no hurry to catch the next train to Glory.

Instead of focusing on the longevity of life, the focus should be on the quality of life.  Sure, it is human nature to want to live as long as possible. But some things are worse than death. Often, the treatment is worse than a terminal disease. Personally, I would choose to live three months and then die, than to suffer the horrible side effects of end-of-life treatments that would often only add weeks or a few months to my life.

When it comes to dying, God is an unnecessary middleman. He and his Bible-sotted disciples get in the way of what is best for the sick and dying. Demanding that life be preserved at all costs only causes unnecessary pain and suffering. I know of Evangelical families who refused to let their dying loved ones die with dignity. You see, in their minds, all that matters is playing by God’s rules. All that matters is pleasing God. If their loved one has to suffer, so be it. God comes first. God mustn’t be offended, even if he prolongs the misery of the dying. Quite frankly, when it comes time for me to die, I don’t want religious zealots anywhere near me. I don’t need or want their prayers or admonitions. I want to be surrounded by my family. I want to hear them say, “Dad, it’s okay to let go.”

I have made my wishes known to my wife and children. Polly and I have spent a considerable amount of time talking about the various end-of-life scenarios; about what we want or don’t want to be done in the various circumstances we might face in the future. Both of us believe that quality of life is more important than extending life. We reject Jeff Maples’ notion that our lives should be preserved at all costs. We know that one day we will physically reach the end of the line. Hopefully, not anytime soon, but who knows (certainly not God), right? Better to have these discussions now than to have them under pressure or when one or both of us might not have the mental acuity to make rational choices.

I have specifically made plans to end my life when the quality of my life is such that I no longer want to live. I have talked to my counselor extensively about this. She is aware of my end-of-life plan. Of course, she encourages me to live, but she always knows that I am in decline physically; that it’s becoming harder for me to rise above my physical challenges. Most days, I am not suicidal, but I am acutely aware of what is happening to me physically. No cure or magical procedure is on the horizon, so I am “content” to face the limitations of mortality.

Not talking about death is not an option. Pretending we will live forever only leads to heartache when the lie is exposed. The moment we are born, we begin marching toward the finish line. While I would love to live to threescore and ten or fourscore, (Psalm 90:10) I know that’s unlikely. Probabilities come into play. All the positive thinking in the world won’t change the odds. I am grateful to have lived longer than my mom and dad. But it would be foolish of me to ignore the realities staring me in the face. Pretending that I am going to live to be a hundred helps whom, exactly?  The Bible is right when it says, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1) Solomon was spot on when he wrote:

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

I give the following advice on the ABOUT page:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Do you think life should be preserved at all costs; that every effort should be made to preserve life? How do you come to terms with your mortality? Do you prefer longevity of life over quality of life? Please share your astute thoughts in the comment section. If you are so inclined, please share approximately how old you are. I am interested in how age affects our end-of-life viewpoints.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


  1. Avatar

    I’m 64 and hoping not to deteriorate too quickly, and to live enjoying some things and people. But I’ve had days where I said to myself I wouldn’t want EVERY DAY to be that way.

    I don’t know what I would do if I was alone.

  2. Avatar

    It seems to me that if Jeff’s god wants all life preserved, he can just do that.

    If he’s all-powerful and really cares about all life, then he’s doing a really shitty job.

    How is it that people are as clueless as poor Jeffy?

  3. Avatar

    Jeff Maples clearly is sufficiently knowledgeable to appreciate that a foetus in an ectopic pregnancy cannot be saved, end of story. He loses any moral high ground, however, in suggesting that women with such pregnancies should be scientific/medical test subjects for something that, to most, isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things. For sure, if research can provide answers to why ectopic pregnancies occur, and produce solutions to minimise them then fine (I’m sure medical research is probably doing this anyway), but women’s health cannot be compromised in pursuit of his questionable ideology. Ectopic pregnancies require early stage intervention to ensure the health of the woman concerned.

  4. Avatar

    It is extreme ignorance that every zygote is equated with an individual person (which is what the pro-life wackos are doing). For example, and this is common in pregnancy, a zygote can split and boom after gestation you have two separate persons who are genetically identical. Even in the case where the separation isn’t complete and conjoined twins results, as long as there are two separate minds, it is considered two separate persons. Jeff Maples and his ilk falls into an ever expanding trap of worshipping the golden fetus.
    As for the end of life question (I’m over 50), in particular with some cancer chemotherapy, I’d have to study the issue, but in my observational experience they take your money, give you hope and you die anyway. In some cases it might be better to just accept your fate and actually enjoy the rest of your life. That said new treatments are coming into existence, but treatments that “shrink tumors” make me very skeptical.

  5. Avatar

    I am 53 years old and supposedly in good health, though I have some screenings coming up. Right now, I don’t feel like I have any issues other than perimenopause crap which is typical for my age cohort.

    I have been there for end of life scenarios for several older relatives, and I have a younger relative who took his own life through a passive suicide when he was days shy of his 41st birthday. I have a couple of relatives who have attempted suicide, one of whom I personally drove to a facility for treatment.

    My belief os that each person of spund mind should be able to make their own decisions about their end of life. Based on my best understanding of depression or other active mental illness, I do not believe that someone in an active episode of their mental illness has the capacity to fully reason and decide their end of life. This is why it’s vitally important for each person well in advance to lay out their plans for end of life decisions in a clear, signed document with a named and informed decision-maker in case one is incapacitated. I know what I want, and quality of life is more important to me than longevity.

    Beginning of life/personhood is more a philosophical discussion than one that has been defined by science. Therefore, I fall on the side of viability outside the womb. Viability outside the womb is more of a function of where one lives and access to medical treatment, and therefore it can vary place to place. Prior to viability, as defined by one’s medical professionals, a pregnant person should be able to terminate the pregnancy for whatever reason. After viability as defined by medical professionals, I have a problem with termination – but as that generally isn’t what happens in real life situations in the first world, it’s really not so much a practical issue. As for ectopic pregnancies, I do not believe a pregnant person should be required to become medical science’s guinea pig just to satisfy forced birth legislators. This message is basically that pregnant people’s bodies belong to society in general, not to themselves.

    I know several evangelicals who, when faced with cancer diagnosis, chose to forego treatment knowing that they would die. They chose not to go through the perils of treatment because they wanted to control their quality of life. It’s interesting how evangelicals’ views on right to life changes when it’s their own life and not some abstract person’s life. I support and respect that these evangelicals chose to make their own decisions.

  6. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Obstacle–We know about the different stages of fetal development, from zygote to newborn. At what point is it a life? As you say, it is a philosophical discussion (which is why grandstanding politicians can make such hay with it), and, like you, I come out on the side of viability.

    What I am about to say next may seem cold. Here goes: You are right that abortion of a viable being, however that is defined, rarely happens in most developed countries. To that, I say that those who would knowingly terminate the viable beings they’re carrying are probably doing the right thing: They wouldn’t be fit parents, and their kids would suffer. (When I worked with kids, I could tell which ones were unwanted. They had almost no chance at getting what they needed, much less of being happy and fulfilled.) And, yes, I agree that the bodies of sentinent beings should not be used as “guinea pigs,” whether in an attempt to bring an ectopic pregnancy to birth or for any other purpose.

    As for the question of suicide: Of course we should try to help anyone who wants to take his or her own life becaue of depression or other mental conditions. But if medical treatments can offer quantity (however small) rather than quality to the remainder of a person’s life, then that person should have the option of ending it, with or without assistance.

  7. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I’d say only if the person who wants to live, and wants every effort to save them implemented, sure. Go for it. Some countries have duty- to- die laws in place, so I wouldn’t want anyone telling me that I HAVE to die, against my will. I don’t know much about Maples,so I subscribed to his blog to see what he’s doing. I must laugh about how conservatives keep confusing Communism with safety nets ! America’s taxes are very high for a country that has the tattered safety nets like the sort we have today. The conservatives also forget that people who live under Neoliberalist regimes will revolt,and go for Communism, because THEY promise things to the populace that they ( secretly) don’t intend to keep. I think the Scandinavian countries have a good balance of capitalism, alongside the safety nets, knowing that an angry,deprived citizenry is a dangerous thing. Right now, there’s a plan by the Neocons, to create a ‘ panel’ on how to deeply slash Medicare,Medicaid, and Social Security. They did NOT back off on these plans. They just mouthed sayings assuring people this won’t happen, like Mitch McConnell will harrumph to reporters. I wonder why the media outlets aren’t exploring this stuff !! Is Jeff Maples onboard for this austerity culture thing ?? Oh yes ! It’s funny, because except for the military and security apparatus, both Communists and Fascists do insist on austerity, because you must hold people down continually. One should research just how similar these systems are, because this is what we face today. Abortion is just a meme for what they really plan to launch in this country !🤨😗😲🤖

  8. Avatar

    I’m 55, and my views on both abortion and end of life decisions are complicated. I do believe one thing: both fall under the “none of my business” category. That is, a person’s health choices are between them, their doctors, and their families. I cannot stand how the party of personal freedom is so willing to stick their noses in other’s problems. Force people to be born (or not allow them to die), then bitch about the cost of keeping them alive. That’s the GOP.

  9. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    I am 63 years old.

    I agree with the comments above about the USA needing a good safety net. All you need is math to tell you there will be some people at the bottom of society who will need help. If religious idiots are totally against abortion they should be willing to support single mothers raising their children. I mean given housing, transportation, healthcare and an income so they can live without worrying about every dollar.

    This ectopic pregnancy stuff is nonsense.

    Religious zealots should not be able to make me follow their ideas where my body is concerned. This includes abortion.

    If life isn’t good enough for me then there should be an honorable death I can use. I would rather die than be homeless. Now the Macron in France and conservative idiots in the USA saying I should work till I am 70 years old. Neither of them has gotten a retirement that old passed yet but they are trying. I got carpal tunnel from working at a keyboard and mouse my whole career. This makes your hands numb and you fingers feel like they are being shocked by electricity at night. Luckily I was able to retire at 52.5 years old. If I could not retire according to their plans and go thru the physical pain all the time there should be an honorable death and I should be able to use it.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser