Kevorkian makes a comeback

By Shannon Smith

Most of us will recognize the name “Kevorkian” when it’s used in a conversation. Dr. Jack Kevorkian brought euthanasia and assisted suicide into the spotlight when he was convicted of murder after participating in the deaths of 130 of his patients, becoming something of an urban legend as a result. His case may be extreme, but in recent months the Dutch have once again brought euthanasia to the forefront of ethical and moral debate. Euthanasia has been legal under certain circumstances in the Netherlands since 2002, and now parents have the option of euthanizing terminally ill infants, provided certain conditions are met.

But who has the right or the authority to decide what those conditions are? Do we abandon the fate of the terminally ill to the popular rhetoric of the politicians and the infinite knowledge of doctors and their well-intentioned diagnosis? Medical conditions can change and the prognosis may become better or worse but nonetheless, legalizing the destruction of those deemed ‘terminal’ is not just a cause for concern, it’s utterly alarming.

In our society, allowing a medical condition to determine whether someone lives or dies has some virtues. Concern over a patient’s quality of life and how much pain they’re in often dictate whether or not they’re eligible for euthanasia. It’s viewed as a last effort to make the inevitable death of the individual who is deemed ‘terminal,’ as comfortable and pain-free as possible. It’s not the act of euthanasia that raises alarm so much as the possible definitions of ‘terminal.’

Dr. Kevorkian described terminal illness as “any disease that curtails life for even a day.” Using this definition, suddenly asthma, arthritis and osteoporosis are legitimate reasons for assisted suicide. Life can’t go on if you’ve got diabetes, heartburn or hepatitis. Granted, before modern medicine, some of these diseases were terminal, but they’re now controllable or even curable in some cases. According to the good doctor, individuals affected by these aliments should be seriously considering suicide.

Society’s initial intentions for legalizing euthanasia may be noble but the precedent could allow euthanasia to become more than just a ‘last ditch effort’ for a peaceful end. Those with any kind of aliment could be euthanized to prevent a strain on the health care system. Sick infants may be killed before they’re even given a chance at life–it’s already happening in the Netherlands. Power of this magnitude in the wrong hands has the potential to cause severe consequences.

What it boils down to isn’t a battle between right and wrong, but rather a question of the value society puts on human life. Are we categorizing those who cost the tax payer more money as less ‘valuable’ or ‘useful?’ Those who are considered terminally ill shouldn’t be looked upon as a burden to those of us who are left to take care of them. While death is an inevitable part of life, no one should have the right to determine who will live or, more importantly, who won’t.

Leave a comment