Human Euthanasia and the Right to Die
This emotionally charged HBO film that most adults can relate to stars Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian, Susan Sarandon as his friend from the Hemlock Society, Brenda Vaccaro as his sister Margo, and John Goodman as his friend Neal.
The film opens with a view of Jack’s mother lying in a hospital bed, with a dazed glare, food slop over her face, drool flowing off her sagging lip, and Jack peering in, unable to respond or to help her.
We learn that this made an indelible mark on his psyche, and one day he came to the conclusion that helping a patient out of suffering when it was their choice was humane. In fact, this movie shows that Jack Kevorkian felt he was providing a service to society. He also told people that if they donated their organs, their life and death would have meaning if body parts could be harvested and given to those still wanting to live.
The Current Laws related to assisted suicide vary state by state.
According to Euthanasia.com, currently 34 states have statutes explicitly criminalizing assisted suicide, nine states criminalize assisted suicide through common law, three states have abolished the common law of crimes and do not have statutes criminalizing assisted suicide. In Ohio, the state’s Supreme court ruled in October 1996 that assisted suicide is not a crime, and the only states that permit physician assisted suicide are Oregon and Washington. See details at http://www.euthanasia.com/bystate.html
In a nursing home, death happens, it is the purpose
When I was 17 I became a nurse’s aide and worked 3rd shift in a local nursing home. We tried to give the patients the best care we could, but let’s face it, one or two people to a floor of 60 means that no one gets individualized care. I vowed I would never go in a nursing home when I got old.
Later my father-in-laws girlfriend ended up in a nursing home. She had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and couldn’t control her motor skills or remember things. He went every day to feed her because the nursing staff would leave her plate on her table, and come back and retrieve it in a half hour.
She couldn’t reach it, nor could she get the food to her mouth because her arm twitched so bad. She had been born in an
earlier time and called the nurses niggers; it wasn’t a slam or a derogatory intention, it was all she had ever known. But I can understand why the nursing staff wanted nothing to do with her. The times had changed but her mind was locked in her childhood.
When Dad broke his hip and could no longer go to feed her every day, she died of starvation. It is true, that is what we do in nursing homes today. Dr. Kevorkian is right when he says people starve in nursing homes and hospitals until they die.
That is what our laws permit as the American Way.
The laws for assisted suicide need to change
Dr. Kevorkian in the film says, ‘Medicine should be about the patient” not religious dogma. We see clips of people, several of the 132 people documented that Dr. Kevorkian assisted with suicide, and we see them begging – begging to die. One man who couldn’t control his muscles and could only move his head slightly, said “I am ready to end this”, and his mother cried inconsolably, saying, “I have watched him suffer for so many years. I don’t want him to go, but I can’t stand seeing him like this either.”
Some of them have tried suicide and failed. Others are not ready, and are only clinically depressed. We see the Dr. tell them it is their choice, and he would not be offended in any way if they change their minds, and instead choose to live.
He tells them that he cannot administer a lethal dose, or give them a pill, but if they want him to do it, he can set up a “Mercy-tron” machine in which they can give themselves a lethal dose of medicine that will first put them to sleep and then stop their heart. Each person on film rapidly pulled their own plugs. It hits home – they are and have been ready for a very long time.
The patient should have the choice
That is Dr. Kevorkian’s point and mine, “It is the choice of the patient.” If they are not in their right mind, we can pull the plug, but if they are of sound mind, and begging to die, we won’t allow it.”
For those that are religious, God has presumably given people free will, yet the laws continue to bind us. Why is it that we can take our dear family pets and give them a peaceful end with euthanasia, and yet we make our human family members suffer?
Is it because God doesn’t care for animals? Is it because dogs and cats don’t have souls? It’s the laws and the commerce of insurance, hospitals and nursing homes that keep this abhorrent practice of starvation, and suffering legalized. I don’t believe in God but if I did, I don’t think he would want people to suffer. Sigmund Freud, King George. They opted for the choice.
I have never understood why in the US, we treat our people so inhumanely, and just like Dr. Kevorkian, I am afraid if my time comes, I won’t have a choice, and that scares the hell out of me on two levels. A) I have spent my life living and that is how I want my family to remember me, and B) I have spent my life saving my money, and I don’t want it to go to the hospitals or nursing homes, I want my daughter to have it.
I have been in love with living for a long time, but if something happened and I became incapacitated and my life became an existence, where I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat on my own, I couldn’t remember who I was or who my family was, if I were reliant on feeding tubes, or a respirator machine, if I had no foreseeable life left to live, I would want someone to call Dr. Kevorkian or hopefully, another physician who is legally permitted to assist me with my final choice; I want the right to be able to choose to die.
HBO – You don’t Know Jack – The Story of Dr. Jack Kevorkian