If you think I want to be kept alive, you don’t know Jack!

Over my life-time I have heard the term “euthanasia” connected with history and Nazi Germany, the news stories of Jack Kevorkian, and when my own mom talked to me about not doing this to her (as if I would). I never really read much about it myself and or studied it probably because it gave me the creeps to even think about it. However, over the weekend I watched the true story of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in “You don’t know Jack” partly because I love Al Pacino and maybe I wanted to see all sides of this practice. I never intended to blog about it.

Within the first thirty minutes of the movie and one of the first patients whom Dr. Kevorkian assisted was an Alzheimer’s patient. I looked over at Nicky and he was in tears because it brought back so many memories of what he went through with his own mom several years ago. I must admit, it was a very moving portrayal of human compassion for others. By watching the media coverage of this man, I had no idea he was so compassionate. We all saw the ugly side of him as they continued to portray and label him “Dr. Death.”

Euthanasia – Coming from the Greek word εὐθανασία meaning “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.” Dr. Kevorkian defined it as “helping people choose their own way of death with dignity.”

A little history lesson

Like other terms borrowed from history, the “euthanasia” has had different meanings depending on usage. The first apparent usage of the term “euthanasia” belongs to the historian Suetonius who described how the Emperor Augustus, “dying quickly and without suffering in the arms of his wife, Livia, experienced the ‘euthanasia’ he had wished for.”[4] The word “euthanasia” was first used in a medical context by Francis Bacon in the 17th century, to refer to an easy, painless, happy death, during which it was a “physician’s responsibility to alleviate the ‘physical sufferings’ of the body.”

While I am not writing this to give my opinions on this subject I do want to present both sides. Watching this movie and seeing it from a patients perspective, as being one who has been diagnosed with chronic pain and fatigue and a crap load of other things, I can honestly relate to wanting so much to be free of pain. I had mixed emotions watching this movie because of that fact and the fact that I was seeing a total different side of a man who has been portrayed as a murderer.

Food for thought

I am not justifying what he did nor am I advocating this practice (nor am I an advocate of suicide) but one must admit that our life expectancy has increased in the past several years and it’s not so much  about “quality of life in those years” as it is “keeping one alive” whether in pain, in a state of dementia, or whatever; Physicians, Pharmaceutical companies and family members alike have joined forces to “keep us alive” at whatever cost.

I ask you, is that really creating quality of life for the patient or is it keeping us ever dependent on medications and service providers?

In the end, Al Pacino did an outstanding job.

What are your thoughts on this subject?




About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
This entry was posted in caregiving, chronic conditions, dying and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to If you think I want to be kept alive, you don’t know Jack!

  1. Pingback: Reckless caregiving; The Michael Jackson saga « theworkingcaregiver

  2. Cheryl says:

    Great post, as always. Sure gives you alot to think about. I, too, am torn, mainly because of upbringing, Christian beliefs, etc. But I have to tell you. My dad is in the hospital, again, for the umpteenth time. Was in ICU last week, saw some improvement so then moved to CPCU, now he’s back in ICU. This morning my mother tells me he was moaning in pain as they were trying to inject potassium in his IV. It was burning him! He is a dialysis patient (renal failure) and has had a host of other heart, pulmonary, aneurism, & colon issues. We fear his veins may be colapsing-he only has one arm for IV’s. The other arm can’t be used because of the kidney dialysis access site. For the past week he has not been eating or talking to us. He told the nurse several times he wanted to die. My mom had a long talk with him the other day. It seems he wants to live but his body is so weak from all his issues and now he has a bowel bacteria and no bowel control. He is ready to give up. It so hard-you want them to fight but then you want them to have relief and peace. As of today, he’s indicated that he does not want to stop dialysis. When he does, that will be it. He will be gone in 48 hours. So, all this to say, that one day I feel one way (like, oh, no, I would never do that to my parents even if they insisted); then seeing him like this makes me feel so helpless! Sure makes you think…


    • Susan Avello says:

      Thanks Cheryl. It does make you think. We can say all day long we don’t want to be kept alive, Ourselves, should we end up in this type of situation. But then when it’s our loved ones, we want to do all we can for them. My Mom is adamant that I never do this to her before it’s her time. Well, when is that? I don’t think one ever knows what we will do unless we are actually faced with the situation, first hand. I can sympathize with you even though I haven’t had to go through that yet with my parents. I pray that the Lord’s will be done in your situation.


  3. Stan says:

    Susan, believe it or not, I am a fan of “assisted death”. I may get harsh critiques of this as I am also a fan of aging and doing all we can do help extend life. But it about the quality, not the length for length sake.

    Taking into the consideration the pain, loss of faculties and capabilities, and quality overall, who is to say a person should not have that option, at their own choosing. You can write so many things into living wills, and your proxy is there to see to your wishes, why is this option so looked down upon?

    In my dementia fitness class, I see so much pain and suffering in those being cared for. Hmmmmm….

    Just say’n.


    • Susan Avello says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinions and comments, Stan. I always value what you have to say. It’s a sticky situation, isn’t it? I have myself, in my living will noted that I am not to be kept alive, resuscitated or given any feeding tubes to keep me alive. I’m sure everyone has opinions on this subject and their own beliefs ……. that’s why I’m thankful for “freedom of speech” while we have it!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s