Death’s shades of grey

When I read that Jack Kevorkian died a couple weeks back, my immediate reaction was, “Good riddance.”

When I read that Jack Kevorkian died a couple weeks back, my immediate reaction was, “Good riddance.”

I quickly realized that was far from what I truly felt. My initial response stemmed from what I remember overhearing about Kevorkian as an impressionable child.

As the man dubbed Dr. Death was making headlines in the mid-1990s, I was learning from elementary school teachers about the difference between right and wrong. Decisions, I learned, were black and white.

Killing is bad. Jack Kevorkian killed people. Ergo, Kevorkian is a bad man. Right? That’s how my naive eyes saw it back then.

There didn’t exist, in any Grade 2 lesson plan, an explanation of moral grey areas. No lesson plan touched on such topics as euthanasia, suicide or chronic illness.

Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about Jack and his motives, and how perception of doctor-assisted suicide runs the gamut through every shade of grey imaginable.

With Kevorkian’s recent passing, we lose an undeniable pioneer whose stalwart support for a patient’s right to choose should not go unnoticed. With his death, the debate over the legality and morality of doctor-assisted suicide should reopen.

As it stands, family members and doctors can make end of life decisions, such as removing a loved one from a life support ventilator; deciding to pull the plug, if you will.

Denying a patient his or her right to choose, because he or she can breathe without the help of a machine or isn’t vegetative, unfairly denies that person of compassion and the decency of human life.

There is more to living than just breathing on your own or having a heart or kidneys that function.

Quality of life is the most crucial part of being, and when your own suffering escalates to the point where you feel your final days lack any quality, what reason is there to be denied choice?

To live does not mean to lie in bed until your body ultimately gives up.

It’s hard enough losing a loved one, but seeing them wither away because there is no alternative — even if they so choose — is even harder.

Doctor-assisted suicide is not euthanasia. The doctor does not inject potassium chloride willy-nilly nor does he put a cyanide pill in every patient’s mouth.

Doctor-assisted suicide allows the doctor to supply the lethal medication, not administer it. The power is ultimately in the hands of the terminally ill patient.

Three U.S. states, including Washington and Oregon, have laws supporting doctor-assisted suicides as long as a number of criteria are met, including the patient having to make three different requests over 15 days for the prescription, and two separate doctors needing to support the request.

Those opposed to doctor-assisted suicide need to ask themselves what harm an option like this does to their own lives.

It’s not a mandatory procedure, and it comes down to being a personal choice for the patient.

According to the B.C. College of Physicians, end of life care “must strive to address the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients,” and should heed the patient’s “affirmation of the whole person.” (The whole person being more than a pained, sickly shell of their former self just waiting for death.)

The decision is the patient’s. End of life care should respect and address the wishes and concerns of only the patient and their family. For that reason, one’s choice to end their own terminal suffering should not be a societal debate.

Kevorkian, as a medical professional, broke the dated rules and faced criminal consequences. But as a compassionate human, not a man maliciously hellbent on murder, he crusaded for a patient’s right to choose and fought, until his death, to clear up the fog clouding society’s thickest grey area.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

—Kyle Slavin is a reporter

with the Saanich News.

 

 

Just Posted

Officer leads the flare in Saanich Police’s social media

Triangle dance latest addition to Saanich Police social media anthology

BC Ferries looks for more feedback on 25-year plan for Swartz Bay

Some suggestions already under consideration include a cycling route, waterfront park

U.S. college bribery scandal shines light on serious problem in Canada

Looking at the bigger picture of marginalization in universities

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation welcomes new leader

Teri Mooring will take over as president this summer

B.C. resident baffled about welcome mat theft

Security footage shows a woman and her dog taking the mat from the property on March 13

Victim succumbs to injuries suffered in Campbell River hit and run

The female pedestrian that was struck in a hit and run on… Continue reading

Trans Mountain court hearing: B.C. says it won’t reject pipelines without cause

Canada says the proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act must be struck down

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

B.C. father fights for his life after flu turns into paralyzing condition

Reisig has lost all motor skills with the exception of slight head, shoulder and face movements.

Suspicious fire in Alert Bay burns two homes, spreads to nearby bush

Police say underage suspects have been identified

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. wildfire prevention budget bulked up as dry spring unfolds

Night vision goggles tested for early detection effort

Vernon ordered to reinstate terminated firefighters caught having sex at work

City believes arbitration board erred, exploring options

Most Read