Saturday, May 26, 2012

Doctor of Death or Angel of Mercy

Doctor Jack Kevorkian, also known as Doctor Death, has been labeled either an angel of mercy or a doctor of death, because of his stance on euthanasia and patient-assisted suicide. To truly have an opinion on the subject you must first be completely informed of what euthanasia is the different types of euthanasia, and where it is legal. After that you need to know of the man willing to risk his freedom to provide what he believes is a person’s right that is being trampled on by our government. Euthanasia, also referred as mercy killings, has many forms and is illegal in the majority of the States, but it provides a terminally person the right to die with dignity on their own terms. When does a person have the right to decide what happens to their own body and how they should leave that body? A mentally competent person should have a voice to say when they are ready to go. A person should not remain in pain, because they are terminally ill. What is their quality of life like? The government says that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy by killing an unborn child, yet it is wrong to need help in dying with dignity. Should there be a person to assist us when our physical limitations prohibit us from doing what is right for us? There should be more physicians like Jack Kevorkian in the world. There should be more people in the world willing to say that the doctors assisted us coming into this world and there should be one there to help us out this world.
Euthanasia has been a personal subject for me since I was a teenager. My grandmother, who raised me, was diagnosed with colon cancer which spread to the back side of the liver. She was diagnosed as terminal. The doctors gave her 6 months to live. They were wrong. She lived for 2 years. During that time she was in excruciating pain and was reduced physically to a childlike status. Basically what dignity she had left was gone. I always wondered if given the chance, would she have preferred to go out earlier, and not suffer the pain and humiliation? I did some research on the subject after her passing and discovered that some people would opt to end their lives rather than allow their family to suffer in watching their passing.
The classification of euthanasia is sort of broad. Voluntary euthanasia is the patient making the consent to die, and in some cases needing help to do so. This form is illegal in most states. Non-voluntary euthanasia is the patient’s family making the decision because the patient is unable to make that decision. Involuntary euthanasia is the person not having a choice on whether they live or die, such as the lethal injection. Passive euthanasia is the withholding of treatment with the desire to terminate life. Active euthanasia is a drug accelerating means of terminating life.
Euthanasia is illegal in 48 of the 50 States. Thus far Oregon and Washington are the only states to vote in an act to allow euthanasia to be possible. Oregon and Washington are the only states that allow a person the choice to terminate their life and die with dignity when they are terminally ill. Oregon Death with Dignity Act was passed on October 27, 1997, and Washington’s Initiative 1000 was passed on March 5, 2009. In these Acts the person must be 18 years of age or older with no possible means of improving in their condition. The person must be a resident of Oregon or Washington and be able to pass a mental stability test performed by a licensed psychiatrist. There is a mandatory waiting period of 15 days, during which time the person must submit a written request to terminate life, and a next of kin must be informed of this decision. The medication used to terminate life is prescribed to the patient, who will administer it to themselves. Death typically happens within 3 hours of taking the prescribed drug. In the other states it is illegal to perform euthanasia. The punishment varies from state to state. It ranges from manslaughter to homicide.
Jack Kevorkian offered his services to more than 130 people during his career. In 1989 he began experimenting with a suicide machine that assisted a person ending their life, because legally he could not do it. Legally he was apprehended on multiple occasions, and would taunt the legal officials in attempt to legalize euthanasia and patient-assisted suicide. On November 22, 1998, Jack Kevorkian assisted Thomas Youk on the television show 60 minutes. He was arrested two days later. He was convicted for administering the lethal injection and spent the next 8 years in prison. Youk’s brother, Terry, has publically stated that he supported his brother’s decision to ask for help in dying and felt that Jack Kevorkian was an angel for doing what needed to be done.
If there were more Jack Kevorkians in the world there would be less suffering in the world today. He has offered the world a means to end the suffering of the dying. Maybe one day the world will see him through the eyes of his patients. He is the angel of mercy and the doctor of death.