Dr. Jack Kevorkian, popularly known as “Dr. Death,” died today at the age of 83. His participation in and support of physician-assisted suicide brought him fame — or infamy, depending on your point of view — and kept the issue in the public eye for many years.
Personally, I appreciate what the man did. I am much more afraid of pain and dying than I am of death. The thought of suffering, of being in intractable pain for a long period of time, just so I can hang around a few weeks or months longer, terrifies me. Why should any patient be denied a peaceful, dignified death simply because some doctor doesn’t want to prescribe more of an addicting drug? Or because strangers say it violates their moral code? What difference does it make to anyone else? The patient is suffering and dying; surely it’s his or her choice to make, and theirs alone.
There are a lot of things to be considered, of course, not the least of which is the patient’s state of mind in requesting assistance to die and the physician’s sworn duty to preserve life. Bottom line, however — the patient’s wishes should take precedence.
We don’t let our pets suffer, do we? We think it a kindness to end their pain and suffering, especially because they cannot do it themselves. Our fellow human beings deserve at least the same compassion.
Oregon, Washington, and Montana have legalized physician-assisted suicide. I keep that in the back of my mind as a last resort if the need arises.