Recent reports out of Kingston, New York have put the sad and sordid reality of assisted suicide on full display.
On February 2, 2024, Stephen Miller of Arizona was arrested and charged with manslaughter and assault in connection with the 2023 death of an unidentified woman in a Kingston motel. The Associated Press reported that the body of the woman was found by motel staff on November 9, 2023. Miller is alleged to have assisted the deceased in committing suicide. His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, indicated that Miller had pleaded not guilty and had been released on bail.
Miller, 85, is a former doctor who was convicted of tax fraud in 2006 and sentenced to four years in prison. NBC News reported that Miller was not related to the woman who committed suicide in Kingston. Miller reportedly serves on the advisory board of a pro-assisted suicide organization called Choice and Dignity.
Attorney Lichtman acknowledges that his client traveled from Arizona to be with the deceased during her suicide, but appears to contend that his actions did not run afoul of the law. Lichtman claims that his client provided “‘comfort and counseling’” to the woman, adding that the deceased was experiencing “‘massive, debilitating pain’” and had made contact with Miller through the Choice and Dignity group. Chillingly, he stated that his client has performed “similar services” for others. Lichtman further stated that he believed that the woman had died of asphyxiation after inhaling some type of gas. The exact nature of the woman’s ailment is not publicly known.
A spokesperson for Choice and Dignity expressed sadness about Miller’s arrest, adding that the organization sees Miller’s activities as a “‘noble undertaking.’” Attorney Lichtman has asserted that the prospect of his client “‘dying alone in a jail cell in New York, is, frankly, disgusting.’”
At New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, our hearts go out to the family of the unidentified woman who allegedly took her own life on November 9. While Stephen Miller’s attorney objects to the possibility that his client could die alone in jail because of his actions, we see the matter differently. To us, it is “‘disgusting’” that a woman may have died by asphyxiation in a motel room with a strange man by her side.
The larger question prompted by this sad and disturbing story is this: How should a loving, compassionate community respond to the reality of pain? As Christians, we believe that pain—as well as death—entered the world as the result of sin. Our merciful God did not intend for the people He created in His image to experience these things. Nevertheless, everyone experiences pain, and everyone will experience death unless the second coming of Christ occurs in his lifetime. Here are a few insights:
- When a person is experiencing pain and suffering, show compassion to that person and attempt to ease their pain. When appropriate, help that person access medical care to treat the problem. The parable of the good Samaritan is instructive on this point, as is the parable of the sheep and the goats: “‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Matthew 25:34-36). Pray that the Lord would ease the person’s pain and heal them.
- When a person has been diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, walk with him or her through that experience. Be open to the Lord’s divine providence and His healing power; pray for His healing. Psalm 103:2-5 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Provide the person with emotional support. If needed, make sure that person receives hospice/palliative care.
- When a person is contemplating suicide, do everything in your power to stop him or her. Don’t leave that individual alone. Pray with and for that person. Remind him that he was created in God’s image, that his life has meaning and value, and that he is deeply loved. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” In the same way, Christians should display care and concern for suicidal individuals. Connect them with resources that can help them, including their families, their church families, and mental health professionals. If there is imminent danger, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.
These are the things that a loving, compassionate community does in response to the realities of pain and death. A truly compassionate person does not help people to die. He or she helps them to live.