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.” 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?