Monday, June 6, 2011

Kevorkian's Passing and Thoughts on Assisted Suicide

I had barely noticed the scrolling headline on the TV.  Jack Kevorkian passed away last week.  Known as "Dr. Death," Kevorkian is famous for inventing a machine which allowed people of little or no mobility to give themselves a lethal dose of medication.  The people were terminally ill and more often than not in great pain.

I just recently ran across a fantastic blog called Choice in Dying.  As Eric MacDonald describes his blog, "Arguing for the right to die and against the religious obstruction of that right."

Admittedly, assisted suicide has not really been on my radar screen as an atheist.  While having almost forgotten Kevorkian, several states, most notably Oregon, have passed or tried to pass assisted suicide laws.  I'm sure many of us recall the Terry Schiavo case from years back as well (while not an assisted suicide case per se, it was a right to day situation).

Before I continue, I am going to link to an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times by Ross Douthat, called, "Dr. Kevorkian's Victims."  Go on and read it.  I'll wait.

Back?  I hope you are as thoroughly disgusted as I am.  I wonder if Douthat has ever had to put a pet to sleep?  Let's just stick with that thought for a moment.  Almost everyone I know, regardless of their faith, has had to put a pet to sleep and send them to the "Rainbow Bridge."  We do this because it is the humane thing to do.  We do this because we love our pets.  We consider them family members.  We can't stand to see our pets suffer and even though we don't ask for their permission, more often than not, we know it is simply the "right thing to do."  Notice how the word itself is "human."  Yet, so many people are willing to deny that same humane ending for those who are terminally ill and suffering greatly.

I've never been in a position to have to deal with this issue with family, but I have certainly dealt with it with pets.  I also know that I could never write about or discuss this subject with the same courage that Eric writes about it in his blog.  If this is a subject that you care about or are interested in learning more about, then I encourage you to subscribe to Eric's blog.

Here are two other bloggers that have commented on the Douthat piece:  Ophelia Benson and Eric MacDonald.


  1. I actually think about this quite a bit. Not to be morbid, but having seen my elders go through hell (and taking the rest of us with them), I think it's absolutely the humane thing to do, especially if the person makes the choice. It's a much more difficult choice if the person doesn't have their faculties but there's some small hope they can regain them.

  2. Choose your medical power of attorney wisely, make it a person who will respect your wishes and not let emotions get in the way of wishes of your living will. I could write a book....

  3. We discussed his death at work Friday. I haven't seen but have been recommended to see "You Don't Know Jack". Received very good reviews. Came out in 2010 with Al Pacino.