“Gina” is a 3-minute documentary film made by Loading Docs about a woman with a connective tissue disorder that has left her unable to talk, deteriorated her muscles, and causes light and sound to further damage her body. She is bed-bound and endures ongoing and excruciating pain.
The film makes the case for voluntary euthanasia. Gina, by means of touch-alphabet communication, says “I think a compassionate god would want people to have the option of a humane death.”
I find it difficult to argue against that idea. We readily put animals out of their misery when we understand that prolonging their life will merely prolong their suffering. Why should we have a less humane standard for humans? Is a human life that is entirely consumed by pain really of more value than no life at all?
Though I recognize that the ethical lines can be challenging to clearing define, I can’t see any good reason for an absolute ban on voluntary euthanasia. If Gina wants to end her suffering, shouldn’t she be allowed to?
Along with euthanasia, the film raises another troubling issue. In the film, Gina claims she is an agnostic. But I happened to watch the film with a friend, who, after seeing it, declared, “This is why I don’t believe in God.”
And after encountering Gina’s story, I also find myself confronted with the ultimate challenge to faith: how can one believe in a loving God in the face of such meaningless suffering?
What possible reason could God have for allowing Gina to suffer?
What possible good could come from such pain?
What possible meaning can exist in Gina’s life?
Of course the problem of pain and suffering isn’t anything new, and Christians have developed all sorts of theodicies in response to the issue. I certainly don’t have any profound insights to add to those discussions. I don’t have any answers to the questions this film raises, and I’m doubtful of anyone who says they do.
A film like “Gina” doesn’t merit a theological or philosophical response. Explanations and theories and Bible verses all ring hollow in the face of the reality of Gina’s plight. There’s simply no explaining away the despair felt by someone who, in her own words, is living “an existence, not a life.”
It’s deeply troubling that Gina has to endure such pain, and it’s deeply troubling that she is unable to bring her suffering to an end. This is something that all of us, whether we’re theists, atheists, or agnostics, should be able to agree on.
You can read more about Gina in the New Zealand Herald article “Frail, in pain, and craving dignity.”
Dan is the Executive Editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians blog. He is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and has two cats.