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Medicine The Courts Science

Jack Kevorkian Dead at 83 184

theodp writes "Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist said to have had a role in more than 130 assisted suicides, has died from kidney-related complications on the eve of the 21st anniversary of his first assisted suicide. Kevorkian, who served more than eight years in prison for second-degree murder, had his story told in the HBO movie You Don't Know Jack. His antics and personality brought a certain approachability to a grim subject — the fundamental right of terminally ill patients to choose to die. 'I will debate so-called ethicists,' he once said. 'They are not even ethicists. They are propagandists. I will argue with them if they will allow themselves to be strapped to a wheelchair for 72 hours so they can't move, and they are catheterized and they are placed on the toilet and fed and bathed. Then they can sit in a chair and debate with me.' RIP, Dr. Jack."
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Jack Kevorkian Dead at 83

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  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @08:21AM (#36336478) Journal

    The cruel irony about this debate is that people who want to (or need to) die are sentenced to an indeterminate amount of suffering before they actually die and people convicted to death have their lives taken for a crime they should spend the rest of their natural lives contemplating in a steel and concrete cell.

    The way the most despised are treated says a lot about a society, but the way a society treats it's least despised says a lot more.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday June 04, 2011 @08:36AM (#36336534) Homepage Journal

    Government is amoral, especially ours. They do use religion as an excuse, of course, and even since the religious reich was mobilized they've been feeling their oats.

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @09:47AM (#36336792)

    I think you need recalibration.

    Inquiry launched as Dutch euthanasia cases surge by 13% in ONE year []

    Anti-euthanasia groups say, however, that the sharp increase is probably linked to the collapse of the palliative care system in the Netherlands. Euthanasia is usually carried out by administering a strong sedative to put the patient in a coma, followed by a drug to stop breathing and cause death. . . .
    Many Dutch people are growing uneasy about the way in which the law has been applied.
    Among them is Dr Els Borst, the former health minister and deputy prime minister who guided the law through the Dutch parliament.
    Last December said she regretted that euthanasia was effectively destroying palliative care. Amsterdam, a city with a population of 1.2 million people, is now served by two tiny hospices.
    The British campaign group Dignity in Dying - formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society - has acknowledged that euthanasia is open to abuse but insists that assisted suicide could still work in practice.

    Continent Death - Euthanasia in Europe []

    Euthanasia has also entered the pediatric wards, where eugenic infanticide has become common even though babies cannot ask to be killed. According to a 1997 study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, approximately 8 percent of all Dutch infant deaths result from lethal injections. The babies deemed killable are often disabled and thus are thought not to have a "livable life." The practice has become so common that 45 percent of neonatologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to Lancet surveys had killed babies.

    It gets worse: Repeated studies sponsored by the Dutch government have found that doctors kill approximately 1,000 patients each year who have not asked for euthanasia. This is not only a violation of every guideline, but an act that Dutch law considers murder. Nonvoluntary euthanasia has become so common that it even has a name: "Termination without request or consent."

    Despite this carnage, Dutch doctors are very rarely prosecuted for such crimes, and the few that are brought to court are usually exonerated. Moreover, even if a doctor is found guilty, he or she is almost never punished in any meaningful way, nor does the murderer face discipline by the Dutch Medical Society. For example, in 2001, a doctor was convicted of murdering an 84-year-old patient who had not asked to be killed. Prosecutors demanded a nine-month suspended probation (!), yet even this brush — it can’t even be called a slap — on the wrist was rejected by the trial judge who refused to impose any punishment. Not to worry. The appellate court decided to get tough: It imposed a one-week suspended sentence on the doctor for murder.

    Even such praising with faint damnation isn’t enough for the Dutch Medical Association. As a result of this and the handful of other non-punished murder convictions of doctors who engaged in termination without request or consent, the organization is lobbying to legalize non-voluntary euthanasia. Along these same lines — and demonstrating that the culture of death recognizes no limits — the day after the Dutch formally legalized euthanasia, the country’s minister of health advocated the provision of suicide pills to the elderly who do not qualify for killing under Dutch law.

    Lest we think the Dutch experience is a fluke, let us now turn our attention to Belgium. Only one year ago the Belgians legalized Dutch-style euthanasia under "strict" guidelines. As with the Netherlands, once unfettered, the euthanasia culture quickly began to swallow Belgium whole. Moreover, the slide down the slope has occurred at a greatly accelerated pace. It took decades for the Dutch euthanasia to reach the current mo

  • by UnderCoverPenguin ( 1001627 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @10:27AM (#36336946)

    On the other hand, those who are rendered helpless -- trapped in a body that no longer works -- do suffer for no good reason. When you can't move on your own, have to fed and have your poo cleaned by others, and most importantly, have no hope of it ever getting better -- you're effectively in the most cruel jail.

    Certainly I do not want to be put in this awful position. However, my concern is that if doctor assisted suicide is legalized, the insurance companies will be significantly less motivated to treat seriously ill patients who choose to live. And eventually, even before they get to this stage.

    (We already have "quality of life" decisions being made before treatment options are presented to patients. Those who are perceived to have "too low a quality of life" are only offered palliative treatments.)

  • by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Saturday June 04, 2011 @03:13PM (#36337578) Homepage

    Oregon has legal euthanasia. To the best of my knowledge the main controls are:

    • Must have a terminal illness, less than a handful of months to live
    • Must be of sound mind
    • Must be in intolerable pain
    • Must have three doctors signatures saying you meet all the requirements

    So this prevents many of the abuses you brought up. I agree that you must guard against abuse, but I think that people should have the choice to end their lives when they stop being worth living, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. I would not agree with helping someone who is depressed to commit suicide, for example, but would support it for someone with terminal cancer who is in great pain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 04, 2011 @04:14PM (#36337858)

    A TL/DR summary of the above:

    1) He suggests that when a patient is going to die, and nothing can be done to prevent it, then it makes sense to perform medical experiments on that patient, assuming that consent can first be obtained, and that the experimentation can be done without causing any additional hardship to that patient.

    2) He suggests that the above could also apply to convicts about to be executed, again with consent and without introducing additional suffering.

    3) He suggested that blood could be transfused from someone recently deceased directly into the body of someone in need of a transfusion. The practical application of this procedure would be on the battlefield.

    4) He suggests that the idea of experimenting on consenting humans would be preferable to experimenting on non-consenting animals.

    All of the above sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    The questionable parts are at the end, where he expands on the concept of "planned death" to include some externally imposed deaths, and also suggests a market for human organs. Not much detail is provided for either, so I'll make no comment here.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato