GEN499: General Education Capstone
July 6, 2015
What is ethics? Ethics are moral principles that explains a person’s behavior. Dr. Jack Kevorkian a formal pathologist, is best known for assisting terminally ill patients with their death which is known as physician assisted suicide. Dr. Kevorkian once said; “In any project the important factor is your belief. Without belief there can be no successful outcome.” Kevorkian believed in every terminal patient’s right to physician assisted suicide as according to Kevorkian’s biography, he also once said famously that “Dying is not a crime.” In 1999 Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years for second degree murder. He was released in 2007 after serving 8 ½ years after promising that he wouldn’t offer suicide advice to anyone. This is such a controversial topic even after Kevorkian’s death in 2011 and when talking about this subject we have to ask ourselves if it’s morally right or wrong for a patient to have the right to die with dignity. Should terminally ill patients have the right to kill themselves? Susan Adkins is an example of someone who exercised that right. In 1990, Kevorkian became famous in assisting in the suicide of Susan Adkins. She was a member of the Hemlock Society which advocates assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her health failing, Susan sought the help of Dr. Kevorkian as he assisted with her suicide with his invention he called the “suicide machine.”
Some people see the pros of assisted suicide. Someone who is terminally ill will no longer be in pain, they will have some quality of life in the end and they will be able to say their goodbyes to their family and friends as they pass away peacefully. Currently Montana, Washington and Oregon are the three states that have legalized physician assisted suicide.
Baxter et al v. Montana is another example of a court case with a person with a terminal illness who wanted physician assisted suicide as an option. Robert Baxter, a marine veteran, was suffering with leukemia when he filed a case along with four Montana doctors seeking recognition that the right to choose aid in dying is protected by the Montana Constitution which guarantees privacy, dignity and equal rights.
Robert Baxter died of his illness just hours after District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter ruled that “The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally ill patient to die with dignity” on December 5 2008. The debate over physician-assisted suicide has never been a simple one, and according to Breslow, in the 48 states where the practice remains illegal, the issue has only grown more complicated in recent years (Breslow, 2012).
In March 1998, a woman in Portland Oregon, who remains anonymous, became the first person to take advantage of the “Death with Dignity Act” and committed suicide legally with the help of her doctor because she was dying of breast cancer (O’Reilly, 2008). Fast forward to 2014 where one of the latest advocates of dying with dignity was 29 year old Brittany Maynard. Maynard shared her personal struggle with terminal ill brain cancer and in April 2014, she was given 6 months to live.
Maynard at the time lived in California and she decided to move with her family to Oregon where physician assisted suicide is legal and she was able to access the state’s “Death with Dignity Act.” Her story went viral and it inspired many because of her bravery for doing something that not many would but she was also criticized for her decision as well. In the new age society accessing this story through YouTube was essential because it is Maynard shedding a light and speaking about her experiences while showing people that although it was a hard decision for her to make she