What Is the Difference Between Euthanizing Animals and Euthanizing People? Isn’t This a Double Standard?

Question from a reader:

I’m really upset with your position and comments about ending a dog’s life. How we treat animals equates to our attitude and thoughts towards humans. So do you advocate for hospice and nursing home old people being euthanized like a sick old dog? Tell me the difference? God is very clear about this.

Why didn’t you tell people to pray over their beloved animal for healing, and if suffering end stages of life, for the Lord to take them? “A righteous person knows the needs of his beast, but the compassion of the wicked is cruelty” (Proverbs 12:10).

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

It sounds like you have strong feelings about this subject. We always welcome reader feedback and appreciate hearing from a variety of perspectives.

It also sounds like this is an area where you and Randy/our ministry are going to have to agree to disagree. No one loves dogs more than Randy and Nanci. They totally agree with you that God has given us stewardship over animals and the godly care for their needs. And yes, we are always welcome to ask our Heavenly Father for their healing.

However, it's important to remember there is a big distinction between animals and people, even when it comes to euthanasia. Human beings are uniquely made in God’s image and although animals are a beloved creation, they are not. Randy writes, “In view of the principles regarding God’s sovereignty over life and death, the relief of pain could never justify actively taking a human life. It is admittedly ironic that we would put an animal in a hopeless condition out of its misery, motivated by compassion, yet are not free to do the same to a human being. But man is made in the image of God. Though God has granted us such rights over animals, he has not done so in the case of human beings.” Randy has written a lot more about euthanasia here.

Joni Eareckson Tada writes in her book When Is It Right to Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying:

…animals aren’t on the same level as humans. As Charles Colson explains, “Humans are unique in all of creation: we are conscious of our existence, aware of death, capable of works of great creativity, and the only part of creation that bears the image of God. Humans alone have eternal souls, which confers unique moral status.” That’s why putting down an injured horse is worlds away from killing a suffering person.

Here are some more perspectives from Got Questions: 

We are to be merciful to animals, and we have the authority to end the lives of animals. So, if euthanizing an animal would be a merciful act, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. If we see an animal suffering, with no hope of recovery, the most merciful thing we could do is quickly and as painlessly as possible end its life. We are also free to do everything we can to preserve an animal’s life. But, again, when the time comes, and the most reasonable and merciful thing to do is to euthanize the animal or pet, it is absolutely a decision God has given us the authority to make. Figuratively speaking, sometimes the only way to get an animal out of the ‘pit’ it has fallen into is to end its life.

We wish you all the best.

Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.