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Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Doctor-Assisted Suicide

An act of mercy or murder? The controversy rages on as laws spring up legalizing doctor-assisted suicide.

by

Reported on http://www.rights.org/ Sept. 30, 1997

Dr. Jack Kevorkian assisted in the suicide of a Colorado multiple sclerosis patient whose body was discovered in a motel room.
A letter released by the office of Kevorkian's lawyer stated that Kari Miller, 54, of Englewood, Colorado, left a note saying she could no longer sit or lie down because of the excruciating pain, and could hardly walk. Her body was found at a Red Roof Inn in a suburb of Detroit.
"The pain I was forced to live with and what the MS had done to me became intolerable," she wrote. MS "had robbed me of all my dignity and my zest for life."

THE FACTORS IN QUESTION

Should Kevorkian-style services be available to any patient who is terminally ill and facing certain death within six months?

Is there a difference whether the patient is in unremitting physical pain, or whether they are suffering from emotional despair?

Is it a relevant factor that the pain could be reduced through modern pain-management techniques?

Should the option of a support group and hospice care be made mandatory for all terminally ill patients?

POSTED COMMENTS

Barry Greenman wrote:

I oppose assisted suicide. It's a cheap way for the elite to avoid caring for the helpless.

Anita wrote:

I have seen the damage that Dr. Kevorkian has caused. What he calls "medicide," I call "murder." He has as much right to help someone kill themselves as I do. Only I would be arrested for the act.

Kathryn wrote:

My grandmother is very ill with Parkinson's Disease. She has been hospitalized for over 10 years. She lost her husband to cancer. She can no longer speak clearly or see very well. She has not walked in over nine years. She cannot feed herself and wears diapers. Influenza spreads through the hospital every now and then, and a few people die each time. Recently she started to choke on her food a lot, due to some of the medication she was on.

It hurts me very much to visit my grandmother and see her suffering ... but it also inspires me.

It hurts me very much to visit her and see her suffering ... but it also inspires me. She wants to live her life to the best of her capabilities as long as she possibly can. She is in pain and she is lonely and she is paralyzed, yet she still goes on living with a courage most people never see.

 

How can we judge for someone else whether they want to be alive or not if they cannot speak? It is not our place to take away from them the chance to try.We can pray for their recovery, but if none comes, it is not our place to destroy something that God made.

GenJLong@aol.com wrote:

If euthanasia becomes legal, many families will pressure grandma or grandpa to have it done, eliminating the expense of a final illness, and smelling a larger inheritance after they are gone. Health insurance providers will also start refusing to pay for expensive care in the last year of life, on the grounds that the patient is going to die anyway.

Why look for expensive cures for cancer when you can put the patient out of his misery for much less money?

In fact, with the chance of doing away with sick people, there will be less reason to spend millions on medical research. Why look for expensive cures for cancer when you can put the patient out of his misery for much less money? When people become old, confused, or depressed, their relatives will nag them to "do it," and many will yield to their family's pressure. People do not realize the full scope of evil they invite if they seek to legalize euthanasia.

OPINION OF DR. KOOP

Measure #16 was a referendum presented to the residents of the State of Oregon in 1994 concerning the "Death with Dignity Act." We present here the argument of C. Everett Koop:

As former United States Surgeon General, I have worked first hand in developing health care policies. Many proposed policies at first sound like good ideas, but in fact are very dangerous. Measure #16 is one of those policies.

Measure #16 confuses the role of physicians in our society. Doctors have an ethical and professional responsibility to sustain life when possible. Measure #16 would create an environment where physician-assisted suicide becomes the first line of defense against terminal diseases, resulting in final and fatal decisions. The medical profession cannot be society's healer and killer at the same time.

A patient's request for suicide is a signal that certain needs are not being met.

Measure #16 prescribes suicide as a treatment for disease. A patient's request for suicide is a signal that certain needs are not being met. Most likely, the patient is suffering from unnecessary pain or treatable depression. Doctors too often fail to dispense adequate pain management. The solution is to provide mental health treatment or better pain management, not drugs for suicide. This is the time for the doctor to be the patient's support, not his/her killer.

Measure #16 is ripe for abuse. The so-called safeguards built into Measure #16 are inadequate. Patients remain vulnerable to outside pressures to choose suicide. Physicians are required only to suggest the patient notify family members, leaving many to choose suicide without the support of loved ones.

Measure #16 strikes at the most vulnerable. Cost containment is a positive and necessary step toward health care reform. However, in this environment Measure #16 is dangerous. Poor, elderly, frail and disabled patients will be the victims if the "choice" to die becomes the "duty" to die.

JEWISH PERSPECTIVE

 

In Jewish law, any form of active euthanasia is strictly prohibited and condemned as plain murder.

The fact that the patient is in unremitting pain and pleads for assistance in ending his life does not change the law. Anyone who kills a dying person is liable to the death penalty as a common murderer.

Active euthanasia, by means of an overt act to hasten death is prohibited, even if the patient is suffering great pain and discomfort, as explained by the following Talmudic and Rabbinic sources:

One who is in a dying condition is regarded as a living person in all respects. (Talmud - Smachot 1:1)
One may not close the eyes of a dying person ... Rabbi Meir would say: "It is to be compared to a sputtering candle which is extinguished as soon a person touches it - so too, whoever closes the eyes of a dying person is compared to have taken the soul." (Talmud - Smachot 1:4)
Even the removal of a pillow when a person is in death throes, thereby hastening death, is forbidden. (Rabbi Moses Isserles, Code of Jewish Law)
It is permitted to administer morphine, etc., to a dying person when necessary to relieve pain, even when though there is a known risk of hastening the [patient's] death, provided that the sole intention of the therapy is to relieve pain and suffering. This is only true if each injection, in and of itself, is not certain to shorten the patient's life, rather the cumulative effect may be life-shortening. However, in a case where even one injection of morphine might cause spontaneous respiration to cease, it is forbidden to administer this drug, even if he is in serious pain, unless the patient will be mechanically respirated. (Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, quoted in Nishmat Avraham, Vol. 2, Yoreh Deah 339:4)

Life, be it for 120 years, or a split second, is of infinite value - mystical, and unfathomable. Therefore the quality of life at any one moment does not alter its infinite value.

DISCLAIMER: This module discusses sources for the purpose of education. Any real-life situation must be discussed with a rabbi, well-versed in Jewish law.

Published: January 26, 2000


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Visitor Comments: 200

(191) Leilah, September 19, 2012 7:36 PM

Is it really playing god?

Everytime a doctor gives a patient a pill, it is playing god. Just like reproducing is a role of playing god. Everything we do involves "playing god" especially in the medical field. If an elder person is suffering/dying or being kept alive against their own will/a machine, so that they can go into a vegetated state for other families/friends benefit, how fare is that for the suffering/patient? NOT FARE AT ALL. What Jack Kevorkian did along with other working physicans and curious students in the medical field are doing to help those patients be heard is absolutely correct and beneficial/ their choice! Not anyone else's. It is theirs and once the choice is made, the doctor should be able to legally help them/medicate them! Without wasting most of their life in jail, like Kevorkian had to do.

tim, December 11, 2012 7:57 PM

I agree 100% let those who choose to suffer all the indignities this life can impose on us suffer if they want to. When someone is in severe pain and their is no quality of life left I think the ones playing god are the ones that force that peoson to keep suffering. They are the evil ones as far as I am concerned. Ones death and when one chooses it if they want should be a god given right. God hung on the croos there is no need for us to be crucified by all these people who want to force people to live when they are begging to die. Usually it's not for the patient they do this for selfish reasons and their own fears of death. If a person says I've had it and don't want to live who are we to say you must suffer on and on and on. I will not live like that when there is no quality of life left I will do it myself peacefully and I know how to do it. I have also been wiped out by our wonderful medical establishment, have lived in severe and chronic pain for 17 years and if I don't continue to get morphine because of the war on drugs I have it all planned. I don't think any of you have the right to tell me I must keep living in severe pain. Anyone who say's that has no idea of how debillitationg and severe pain can be. No one should have the right to force someione to live past the point where they no longer feel life is worth living. You don't believe me try living in severe pain for nearly 20 years you might change your mind.

(190) Anonymous, May 15, 2012 6:31 PM

Wish it was me

If you suffer from two brain tumors and an autoimmune disorder sometimes you seek something assisted. Rather out be bloody and painful the opposite is achieved. If you expect to die earlier and live every waking moment in pain what is the problem? the momentous commenters have no idea what it is like to be truly ill unless stricken with such horror. Statistically most won't. At least I thought the same. Enjoy your life while you can. Some are not as fortunate to do the same.

(189) courtney, May 3, 2012 11:50 AM

if you can be taken off life support then you should be given the option of ending your own life, it should be something that should be greatly considered and not just for people who want to just because. there are people out there who suffer great pain and we just sit back and wait for them to die on their own when we know it is enevitable anyway. it is cruel. i would never want to be in so much pain that i cant move without it hurting and have my friends and family just sit by.

(188) Peanut, April 25, 2012 6:48 PM

Think about this

Think about this, people are allowed to terminate life support on a person who does not have a living will. A living will is a will that is written explaining what a person would want in the event that something happens to them. If a person doesn't have one their family is still allowed to take them off life support. What if they wanted to live like that for the rest of their life? It is legal for us to do that, yet it is not legal for a doctor to help someone who actually asked to die, to die. In a way aren't they the exact same thing. If doctor assisted suicide should be considered for murder because the outcome is death, then terminating life support regardless of a persons request should also be illegal, because if you take them off life support, the outcome is the same death! So if both outcomes are death, then neither should be legal because they're both murder then.

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