Euthanasia Essay - Dr. Quill and Dr. Kevorkian


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There are many different methods of approaching patients facing the

end of their lives. Since technology has increased the ability to sustain

life longer, patient assisted suicide has become an increasingly more

popular avenue for doctors to explore.   This topic, since it deals with

the power over life and death, touches on some of the deepest of human

feelings.  The argument over whose or which approach is most viable can

become a heated one and could never be solved with one broad stroke since

it deals with individuals on such an intimate level.  Both Dr. Jack

Kevorkian and Dr. Timothy Quill have there own views on which methods are

correct, some of their views are similar and some are quite different.

Both doctors agree that certain people at the end of their lives shouldn't

have to suffer any more than they have to, but they differ in the methods

in which lead up to the decision process of choosing euthanasia or not.

 

      The belief that individuals facing terminal illnesses and or

certain death in a short period of time should have the "right to die with

as much control and dignity as possible" is shared by both Kevorkian and

Quill (Quill 434).  There are many cases in which people become sick and

life becomes an endless episode phasing between unconsciousness and severe

pain. There are also cases in which an individual becomes diagnosed with a

disease with no definite cure and faces a road of painful treatment and

emotional heartache .  One example of this was Diane's case.  Diane was one

of Dr. Quills patients who was diagnosed with "acute myelomonocytic

leukemia", a disease with a 25% survival rate with treatment and certain

death in at most a few months without treatment (Quill 434).  This disease

is very painful to say the least.  She was faced with the decision between

a painful treatment process or death.  Diane chose to let the disease run

its course, this way she would be able to say her final good-byes to her

family.  Her only worry was that in the final stages of her death, would

she be able to control herself, or would she slip away in agony.  To avoid

this she asked Dr. Quill if he would give her a prescription for

barbiturates so that when the end was near she would be able to control her

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death.  At first, Quill was apprehensive about her decision, but after

careful thought he decided that assisting in her suicide would be the most

beneficial course of action for her and her family (Quill 437).  He

realized that the treatment of the leukemia would be very painful and

traumatic, and that the pain she was certain to face was unnecessary.  His

belief is that as a doctor, it is his responsibility to serve his patients

in whatever way he feels most beneficial.  He states his opinion most

clearly when he says:

 

        "The Hippocratic oath really has two dimensions.  One is

        to preserve life and the other is to relieve human suffering.

        Usually you are trying to do both but in end of life care you

        take relief of suffering as your priority, and you may use

        methods that may indirectly shorten life.  People have a sense

        of who they are and what's important in life and want to die

        with that in tact."(Quill 138)

 

 It seems as though the essence of his work is to maintain an individual's

quality of life even if it means death.  In Diane's case, he risked his

career and a possible jail sentence in order to make sure that he helped

her in whatever way was best, and so he would be able to live with himself.

 

        Dr. Kevorkian shares the belief that a patient should in certain

cases be allowed to chose assisted suicide if it means that they will avoid

unnecessary pain and suffering.  He has had far more cases of patient

assisted suicide than Dr. Quill has, but their reasons are similar.

Recently one of Kevorkian's cases was featured on "DateLine", a news

program, in which a man named Thomas Youks was suffering from Lou Gehrig's

disease.  He called upon Dr. Kevorkian because his disease was causing him

a lot of pain and he was afraid that he was going to choke himself.  His

condition made it hard to eat, hard to sleep and hard to breath, for Tom

Youks every minute of life was a struggle.  Dr. Kevorkian talked with him

and his family and made sure that assisted suicide was what they wanted

this way he couldn't be implicated.  They all agreed so Tom said his good-

byes and slipped peacefully away after receiving the lethal medicine from

Dr. Kevorkian.  Similar to Dr. Quill, Doctor Kevorkian believed that this

type of situation called for few options other that assisted suicide.

 

        Though Both Doctors agree that Assisted suicide is a viable option

in certain circumstances, their methods of care before the decision is

quite different.  Dr. Quill states in an interview from people magazine

that he believes firmly in the doctor patient relationship.  "Everything I

[Quill] do has to do with the long haul and careful assessment and making

sure this [assisted suicide] is the last resort and that every patient has

good access to hospice care and palliative care"(Quill 138).  Dr. Quill

feels that a doctor should first care for the patient and try to make them

as comfortable as possible, then if the situation truly calls for something

else, assisted suicide is brought into the picture.  This care is not only

for the patient but is extended to the patient's family.  It is also

important to attend to both the psychological needs of the patient, not

just the physical.  In the case of Diane he had developed a relationship

with her and her family.  He was in the proper position to aid in t heir

decision because he knew them.  He also believes that it is important to

inform the patient of all their options.  He is a friend to those he helps

not just a doctor, that is what is important.

 

        Dr. Kevorkian on the other hand lacks in almost all of these

aspects.  He meets his patients for the most part by their contacting him

to perform assisted suicide.  He only spends about a week with them.  In

Tom's case he was with him only a few short days.  According to Dr. Quill

"he has frequently acted without knowing people in even the most

superficial way.  He has no experience in end of life care...  He is a

pathologist, so he doesn't have the skills in pain management and

psychological assessment"(Quill 138).  Dr. Kevorkian is not involved in the

decision process, but only in the act itself.  It is this that truly

separates the two doctors.

 

        Though both Dr. Quill and Dr. Kevorkian are active supporters in

patient assisted suicide, I believe that Dr. Quill is everything that Dr.

Kevorkian is not.  I believe that Dr. Kevorkian leaves out the most

important part of the process of assisted suicide.  It is the care and true

assessment of all the aspects involved that is missing from Jack Kevorkian.

When it comes to having a figure in the spotlight I feel that it should be

Timothy Quill not Jack Kevorkian.  If patient assisted suicide were to be

made illegal, Dr. Quill should be it's model, not Jack Kevorkian.  This is

true because the most important aspect of the process is the comfort, care

and information that leads up to the decision, not just the number of

patients that you see.

 


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