Most articles about the death of Jack Kevorkian have been fairly objective, but the bulk of the comments about the articles have been hymns of praise for the doctor, who died receiving the kind of palliative care everyone deserves and with the music of JS Bach playing in the background. Despite having liver cancer, ironically the same disease from which the woman who commits suicide in “How to Die in Oregon” suffered, he died quite peacefully, according to his lawyer, of natural causes.
The adulatory comments about Kevorkian, and comments in favor of assisted suicide in general, often refer to what their authors say is our greater kindness to animals in putting them down when they are sick and suffering. Steven Drake of “Not Dead Yet”, however, points out that many, many euthanasias are performed on animals that are not suffering or sick at all but whose owners decide they can no longer afford them or just no longer want them. (http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2011/06/five-things-takepartcom-author-really.html and http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/lets_put_this_pet_theory_to_sleep/ ). Drake’s correction of the “they shoot horses, don’t they?” assumption led us to Google “increasing euthanasia of animals due to bad economy”. We found that there has been a huge increase in animal euthanasias during the economic collapse. Here are just a few of the links (warning: some of the news they tell is hard to bear):
“Not Dead Yet”, an organization of people with disabilities, sees quite clearly that legalizing the so-called “choice” to commit suicide will put pressure on them to die and save the state or their relatives the human and economic cost of their care. They also see clearly that the line between assisted suicide and euthanasia has not held in Oregon, where people have admitted without being prosecuted to mixing a lethal dose and spooning it into patients’ mouths or to giving other unspecified “help” in dying (www.dredf.org/assisted_suicide/practice_vs_theory.pdf See the section on the requirement for patient-administration). Why should it hold in other states, especially when no current law requires a witness at the time the drugs are administered?
Even without involuntary euthanasia, or worse, if assisted suicide is legalized in our state of Vermont and the other targeted states, cost and other pressures to die will be enormous on the elderly, those with disabilities and people made vulnerable by sickness. The choice to die like Jack Kevorkian, with very good and very expensive palliative care, will be eroded for many less fortunate than he, not gradually but immediately in these times. Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal, briefly considered eliminating hospice coverage from Medicaid last year. South Carolina, where it is not legal, also considered eliminating hospice coverage. Neither did, but shouldn’t we concentrate on making sure the dying get the very best care, not on making it legal to “help” (meaning “pressure”) them to die? Remember that the means to commit suicide are at hand for a truly determined person, especially, for anyone receiving drugs to control pain.
Jack Kevorkian was a sick man, and most of the articles about him admit that. His adorers are simply uninformed.