Assisted SuicidesThe Washington Post September 2-8, 1996Picture yourself in this situation.
You go to the doctor for a routinephysical. You look fine. You feel good. All those exhausting workouts at thegym are finally starting to pay off and you actually stuck to that low fat, highvitamin diet you’re doctor recommended. You have never felt better. You areessentially the epitome of a healthy, fit human being. Then, out of nowhere,you are diagnosed with a disorder of the nervous system accompanied by chronicfatigue syndrome. The illness is permanent and there is no cure.
It will onlyprogress and worsen with time, and all you can do is wait. What would you do?If you were 42-year-old Judith Curren, a nurse and mother of two smallchildren, you’d be in close contact with the infamous suicide assessor, Dr. JackKevorkian, a.
k.a. “Doctor Death,” discussing your “options.” However, accordingto an editorial published in The Washington Post, entitled “38 AssistedSuicides,” many people believe that when it comes to matters such as life anddeath, there are no options. The decision to live or die is made by God.
Judith Curren didn’t agree. With the assistance of Dr. Kevorkian, she died andthe retired pathologist presided at his 38th assisted suicide, fairly confidentthat he will not be prosecuted or even suffer public disapproval.Many of the people who have sought out Dr. Kevorkian have been terribly illand suffering, with no hope of long-term survival.
Their stories offeredexamples that built public sympathy for this cause. But from the beginning,even among observers who believe that the desperately sick should be given helpto die, there have been questionable cases. For example, a woman in her fiftiesallegedly suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease was fit enough to play tenniswith her adult son shortly before dying. Another-said to have had a painful,progressive illness-was found to be free of disease by the county medicalexaminer.The article argued this point, “Is it in any way merciful, compassionate,or ‘healing’ (a favorite word of Kevorkian fans) to assist in the suicide of amiddle-aged woman who is tired and depressed and married to a man whom sherecently accused of attacking her and who then delivers her to Dr. Kevorkian?Pain is controllable. Depression and fatigue can be ameliorated by drugs.
Violent husbands can be prosecuted and divorced. Suicide in such a case isunreasonable. A doctor’s help in that course is unconscionable.”I had mixed feelings on this editorial because I take into considerationboth sides of the argument. On one hand I understand Judith Curren’s decision.
I can imagine what it must feel like to wake up perfectly healthy and have yourwhole life in front of you, and in the next minute be told you have an incurabledisease and that it’s going to eventually kill you. Living with that thoughtalone would be too much for me. Here’s a woman that did everything right. Itjust doesn’t seem fair that she will never see her children grow up, she willnot be able to continue her career in nursing and help save other’s lives, shewill not be around when the scientists celebrate finding a cure for the diseasethat claimed her life.
In many ways, this woman has suffered enough. Whyprolong the inevitable and possible pain and suffering that will escalate withtime? As humanitarians, we should want to put this woman out of her misery.But fortunately or unfortunately, there is another side to us. One thatwants to be strong and hold on for just a little bit longer. One who believesthey will be the first cured when science makes another medical breakthrough.
Aside that wants to raise it’s children instead of watching over them. I believe,for most people, this stronger, more powerful side will conquer death andreinstate hope. After all, life is the most valuable gift we have, and thereshouldn’t be any two sides to that.