The Right to Die
Strengthened by recent court victories Jack Kevorkian and the right-to-die movement are well on their way to making euthanasia as much a part of American life as abortion has become over the past two decades. B. Abortion is legal so what’s the difference with wanting assisted help with suicide? C. Jack Kevorkian would like to see clinics that he calls “obitoriums” set up to serve those wanting to commit suicide. III. In a 1988 Medicine and Law article Jack Kevorkian builds on his previous ideas of human experimentation by combining them with his theories on planned death. A. The Last Fearsome Taboo: Medical Aspects of Planned Death,” Kevorkian explains how with the experimentation you move from “euthanasia” or “good death” into an area called “eutatosthanasia” or “best death. ” Conclusion: Whether you support Dr. Kevorkian’s theory all he wanted was for one to be able to go with as much dignity as possible, I’ll leave you with this there is only one certainty in life, and that’s that it will end one day.
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References Assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://students. northern. edu/smliechti/assistedsuicide/types. html “Dr.
Kevorkian’s Wrong Way. ” New York Times [New York City] 5 June 2007. Print. “Euthanasia Suicide and Physician-Assisted Suicide – Euthanasia And Physician-assisted Suicide in Europe. ” Library Index. Net Industries. Web. 9 Nov. 2009. Henderson, L. (n. d. ). Euthanasia. Retrieved from http://www. sagepub. com/edwards/study/materials/written-speeches/77593_inf. pdf Tucker, Kathyrn L. “The Evolving Policy on Physician-Assisted Suicide. ” Medical Ethics Advisor 25. 10 (2009): 114-15. Print. A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE OF EUTHANASIA? Most people in North America die what may be called a bad death.
One study found that ” More often than not, patients died in pain, their desires concerning treatment neglected, after spending 10 days or more in an intensive care unit. ” The word Euthanasia originated from the Greek language: eu means “good” and thanatos means “death”. One meaning given to the word is ” the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies. ” That is, the term euthanasia normally implies that the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit suicide. However, some people define euthanasia to include both voluntary and involuntary termination of life.
Like so many moral/ethical/religious terms, “euthanasia” has many meanings. The result is mass confusion. It is important to differentiate among a number of vaguely related terms: Passive Euthanasia : Hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course. For example: Removing life support equipment (e. g. turning off a respirator) or Stopping medical procedures, medications etc. , or Stopping food and water and allowing the person to dehydrate or starve to death. Not delivering CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and allowing a person, whose heart has stopped, to die.
Perhaps the most common form of passive euthanasia is to give a patient large doses of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood that the pain-killer will suppress respiration and cause death earlier than it would otherwise have happened. Such doses of pain killers have a dual effect of relieving pain and hastening death. Administering such medication is regarded as ethical in most political jurisdictions and by most medical societies. These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering persons so that natural death will occur sooner.
It is also done on persons in a Persistent Vegetative State – individuals with massive brain damage who are in a coma from which they cannot possibly regain consciousness. Active Euthanasia : This involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. Physician Assisted Suicide: A physician supplies information and/or the means of committing suicide (e. g. a prescription for lethal dose of sleeping pills, or a supply of carbon monoxide gas) to a person, so that they can easily terminate their own life.
Involuntary Euthanasia: This term is used by some to describe the killing of a person who has not explicitly requested aid in dying. This is most often done to patients who are in a Persistent Vegetative State and will probably never recover consciousness. Traditional Christian beliefs concerning all forms of suicide were well documented by Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274 CE). He condemned all suicide (whether assisted or not) because: * It violates one’s natural desire to live. * It harms other people. * Life is the gift of God and is thus only to be taken by God. Attempting to commit suicide was once a criminal act.
It has been decriminalized for many decades in most jurisdictions in North America. However, assisted suicide remains a criminal act throughout North America, with the exception of the state of Oregon. In that state, it is permitted under tightly controlled conditions. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was thrown into the nation’s headlines on June 4, 1990. In a Detroit public park, the doctor made 54-year-old Janet Adkins, suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, his first “suicide machine client. ” (Kevorkian would soon abandon use of his infamous suicide machine. His patients then inhaled carbon monoxide. In the process, Adkins became “ America’s first acknowledged case of medically assisted suicide. ” In the month that followed, Kevorkian went from being a relatively unknown pathologist to the notorious “Dr. Death. ” Cornerstone magazine’s Sarah Sullivan was able to secure an interview with Kevorkian at that time. Portions of that 1990 Cornerstone article remain extremely relevant today. They offer a revealing glimpse into the thinking and agenda of the man who, after 27 assisted suicides, had become the brazen symbol for the moral/medical issue of the decade: euthanasia.
Strengthened by recent court victories, Kevorkian and the right-to-die movement are well on their way to making euthanasia as much a part of American life as abortion has become over the past three decades. Nonetheless, the legal and social battle over this issue is far from over. Kevorkian’s candid comments in the article that follows underscore the need for pro-lifers to make their voices heard now, before the issue is decided by the U. S. Supreme Court. To many, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s elaborate suicide machine and manners qualify him as the Rube Goldberg of Death.
But his actions of June 4, 1990 were the result of deeply held opinions on the right-to-die issue. Dr. Jack Kevorkian said: “I believe that there are people who are healthy and mentally competent enough to decide on suicide. People who are not depressed. Everyone has a right for suicide, because a person has a right to determine what will or will not be done to his body. There’s no place for people to turn today who really want to commit suicide. Teenagers, and the elderly especially, have nowhere to turn. But when they come to me, they will obey what I say because they know they’re talking to an honest doctor.
I can talk a teenager out of suicide easily if he comes to me, because he knows if it’s justified I’ll help him do it. ” Regarding a preliminary injunction prohibiting him from committing “any acts to help a patient committing suicide,” Kevorkian was quoted as saying, “What’s the court got to do with medicine! They are dictating how medicine should be practiced. You know the court is dominated by religion… ‘Life is sanctity, this and that… ’ so what! Instead of intimidating me; I’m intimidating them! There’s no law broken — they know it! They’re looking for a way to get me.
They’re out to burn me at the stake figuratively. The problem with medicine today is that it’s under the Dark-Age mentality of mystical religion, which has permeated medicine to the core since Christianity took over. ” In every major city, Kevorkian would like to see clinics that he calls “obitoriums” set up to serve those wanting to commit suicide. “Now you would have to draw up a strict code of ethics to regulate these clinics. Both society and doctors, but doctors mainly, would work to establish the code of ethics. The origin of ethics, however, must come from the situation as it exists.
And the code must fit the situation. And the ethics must change as the situation changes. That’s the way to keep control. Not by an inflexible maxim that applies for two thousand years, but an ethical code that will change a decade or two later. Dr. Jack Kevorkian further states: “It’s ethical conduct within the framework of time and space. Ethical codes should never be set in stone. They can’t be, they must change constantly. That’s why we have problems today, because most of the ethics are dictated by inflexible religious doctrine: ‘Human life is divine, it cannot be ended. Who said it? I don’t feel holy. You can’t make one doctrine fit everybody. It’s between patient and doctor. That’s all it is. Nothing else counts. The code of ethics should be based only on medical knowledge. No theology, no philosophic doctrines that are abstract. Only what is really valid medically! ” We should counter with “What is to guarantee that the doctors will make the correct ethical choices in running death clinics? ” Kevorkian responded angrily, “I can keep this controlled while I’m alive, but after I die you’ll get corruptible doctors running them.
But that doesn’t scare me, that should scare society. That’s society’s problem. ” As Christians, do we really need to worry about Dr. Kevorkian and his provocative views on euthanasia? Aren’t Kevorkian’s ideas just the farfetched dreams of a “modern Dr. Frankenstein”? Dr. Kevorkian doesn’t think so. “What I’m talking about is inevitable. The people who are opposing this are gonna lose eventually, just like they lost in birth control and everything else that happened in medicine. It’s an obstinate, futile opposition. The future, well it comes eventually. ” Dr.
Jack Kevorkian is not the only one who thinks this way! Just look at Oregon. CHRONOLOGY OF DR. JACK KEVORKIAN’S LIFE AND ASSISTED SUICIDE CAMPAIGN May 28, 1928 Kevorkian is born in Pontiac, Michigan, the son of Armenian immigrants. 1952 Graduates from University of Michigan medical school with a specialty in pathology. 1956 Publishes journal article, “The Fundus Oculi and the Determination of Death,” discussing his efforts to photograph the eyes of dying patients, a practice that earned him the nickname “Doctor Death. ” December 1958 Presents paper at meeting in Washington, D. C. advocating medical experimentation on consenting convicts during executions. Embarrassed, University of Michigan officials ask Kevorkian to leave his residency there. 1961 Publishes article in The American Journal of Clinical Pathology detailing his experiments on transfusing blood from cadavers to live patients. 1970 Becomes chief pathologist at Saratoga General Hospital in Detroit. Late 1970s Quits pathology career, travels to California, and invests life savings in directing and producing a feature movie based on Handel’s “Messiah. ” With no distributor, the movie flops. 1980s
Publishes numerous articles in the obscure German journal Medicine and Lawoutlining his ideas on euthanasia and ethics. 1987 Advertises in Detroit papers as a “physician consultant” for “death counseling. ” 1988 Kevorkian’s article, “The Last Fearsome Taboo: Medical Aspects of Planned Death,” is published in Medicine and Law. In it, he outlines his proposed system of planned deaths in suicide clinics, including medical experimentation on patients. 1989 Using $30 worth of scrap parts scrounged from garage sales and hardware stores, Kevorkian builds his “suicide machine” at the kitchen table of his Royal Oak, Michigan, apartment.
June 4, 1990 Kevorkian is present at the death of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Her death using the “suicide machine” occurs in Kevorkian’s 1968 Volkswagen van in Groveland Oaks Park near Holly, Michigan. June 8, 1990 An Oakland County Circuit Court Judge enjoins Kevorkian from aiding in any suicides. December 12, 1990 District Court Judge Gerald McNally dismisses murder charge against Kevorkian in death of Adkins. October 23, 1991 Kevorkian attends the deaths of Marjorie Wantz, a 58-year-old Sodus,
Michigan, woman with pelvic pain, and Sherry Miller, a 43-year-old Roseville, Michigan, woman with multiple sclerosis. The deaths occur at a rented state park cabin near Lake Orion, Michigan. Wantz dies from the suicide machine’s lethal drugs, Miller from carbon monoxide poisoning inhaled through a face mask. November 20, 1991 The state Board of Medicine summarily revokes Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan. May 15, 1992 Susan Williams, a 52-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Clawson, Michigan. July 21, 1992
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge David Breck dismisses charges against Kevorkian in deaths of Miller and Wantz. Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson appeals. September 26, 1992 Lois Hawes, 52, a Warren, Michigan, woman with lung and brain cancer, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning at the home of Kevorkian’s assistant Neal Nicol in Waterford Township, Michigan. November 23, 1992 Catherine Andreyev of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, dies in Nicol’s home. She was 45 and had cancer. Hers is the first of 10 deaths Kevorkian attends over the next three months; all die from inhaling carbon monoxide.
December 3, 1992 The Michigan Legislature passes a ban on assisted suicide to take effect on March 30, 1993. February 15, 1993 Hugh Gale, a 70-year-old man with emphysema and congestive heart disease, dies in his Roseville home. Prosecutors investigate after Right-to-Life advocates find papers that show Kevorkian altered his account of Gale’s death, deleting a reference to a request by Gale to halt the procedure. February 25, 1993 Michigan Governor John Engler signs the legislation banning assisted suicide. It makes aiding in a suicide a four-year felony but allows law to expire after a blue-ribbon commission studies permanent legislation.
April 27, 1993 A California law judge suspends Kevorkian’s medical license after a request from that state’s medical board. August 4, 1993 Thomas Hyde, a 30-year-old Novi, Michigan, man with ALS, is found dead in Kevorkian’s van on Belle Isle, a Detroit park. September 9, 1993 Hours after a judge orders him to stand trial in Hyde’s death, Kevorkian is present at the death of cancer patient Donald O’Keefe, 73, in Redford Township, Michigan. November 5-8, 1993 Kevorkian fasts in Detroit jail after refusing to post $20,000 bond in case involving Hyde’s death. November 29, 1993
Kevorkian begins fast in Oakland County jail for refusing to post $50,000 bond after being charged in the October death of Merian Frederick, 72. December 17, 1993 Kevorkian ends fast and leaves jail after Oakland County Circuit Court Judge reduces bond to $100 in exchange for his vow not to assist in any more suicides until state courts resolve the legality of his practice. January 27, 1994 Circuit Court Judge dismisses charges against Kevorkian in two deaths, becoming the fifth lower court judge in Michigan to rule that assisted suicide is a constitutional right. May 2, 1994
A Detroit jury acquits Kevorkian of charges he violated the state’s assisted suicide ban in the death of Thomas Hyde. May 10, 1994 The Michigan Court of Appeals strikes down the state’s ban on assisted suicide on the grounds it was enacted unlawfully. November 8, 1994 Oregon becomes the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters pass a tightly restricted Death with Dignity Act. But legal appeals keep the law from taking effect. November 26, 1994 Hours after Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide expires, 72-year-old Margaret Garrish dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Royal Oak.
She had arthritis and osteoporosis. Kevorkian is not present when police arrive. December 13, 1994 The Michigan Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Michigan’s 1993-94 ban on assisted suicide and also rules assisted suicide is illegal in Michigan under common law. The ruling reinstates cases against Kevorkian in four deaths. June 26, 1995 Kevorkian opens a “suicide clinic” in an office in Springfield Township, Michigan. Erika Garcellano, a 60-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, woman with ALS, is the first client. A few days later, the building’s owner kicks out Kevorkian. September 14, 1995
Kevorkian arrives at the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, Michigan in homemade stocks with ball and chain. He is ordered to stand trial for assisting in the 1991 suicides of Sherry Miller and Marjorie Wantz. October 30, 1995 A group of doctors and other medical experts in Michigan announces its support of Kevorkian, saying they will draw up a set of guiding principles for the “merciful, dignified, medically-assisted termination of life. ” February 1, 1996 New England Journal of Medicine publishes massive studies of physicians attitudes towards doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon and Michigan.
Studies demonstrate that a large number of physicians surveyed support, in some conditions, doctor-assisted suicide. March 6, 1996 The 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rules that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have a constitutional right to aid in dying from doctors, health care workers and family members. It is the first time a federal appeals court endorses assisted suicide. March 8, 1996 A jury acquits Kevorkian in two deaths. March 20, 1996 Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), introduces a bill in the U. S. House to prohibit tax-payer funding of assisted suicide.
April 1,1996 Trial begins in Kevorkian’s home town of Pontiac in the deaths of Miller and Wantz. For the start of his third criminal trial, he wears colonial costume–tights, a white powdered wig, and big buckle shoes–a protest against the fact that he is being tried under centuries-old common law. He would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10, 000 fine if convicted in the Wantz/Miller deaths. On May 14, 1996 the jury acquitted him. November 4, 1996 Kevorkian’s lawyer announces a previously unreported assisted suicide of a 54-year-old woman.
This brings the total number of his assisted suicides, since 1990, to 46. June 12, 1997 In Kevorkian’s fourth trial, a judge declares a mistrial. The case is later dropped. June 26, 1997 The U. S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that state governments have the right to outlaw doctor-assisted suicide. The Court had been asked to decide whether state laws banning the practice in New York and Washington were unconstitutional. November 5, 1997 Oregon residents vote to uphold the state’s assisted suicide law, the first of its kind in the nation.
The law allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients. March 14, 1998 This day marks Kevorkian’s 100th assisted suicide, involving a 66-year-old Detroit man. September 1, 1998 Michigan’s second law outlawing physician-assisted suicide goes into effect. November 3, 1998 Michigan voters reject a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. November 22, 1998 CBS’s “60 Minutes” airs a videotape showing Kevorkian giving a lethal injection to Thomas Youk, 52, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The broadcast triggers an intense debate within medical, legal and media circles. November 25, 1998 Michigan charges Kevorkian with first-degree murder, violating the assisted suicide law and delivering a controlled substance without a license in the death of Youk. Prosecutors later drop the suicide charge. Kevorkian insists on defending himself during the trial and threatens to starve himself if he is sent to jail. April 13, 1999 Convicted of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in the death of Youk, a Michigan judge sentences Kevorkian to 10-25 years in