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PUBLIC FORUM : READERS DIVIDED ON KEVORKIAN SENTENCE, ASSISTED SUICIDE.

I believe that any judge who presides over a case such as that of Dr. Jack Kevorkian should be required to visit patients in the advanced phase of Lou Gehrig's disease or of any terminal, but prolonged, intractable agony.

Physician-assisted suicide is as old as medicine itself.

During the Middle Ages, when a knight in shining armor required a squire at his side, it was for the purpose of ``misericordia'' or mercy killing. Every knight dreaded the prospect of being wounded in battle and left alone to die in agony. The squire's purpose was to finish the dying quickly, to kill the knight.

As a retired nurse, I can tell you that before the modern practice of prolonging terminal disease with life-support systems, medicine was practiced with mercy.

I remember that, as a student, I had a patient whose entire body was a decaying mass of pus. He was in the very last stage of scleroderma. It took me eight solid hours to change his dressing every day, then two solid hours in the shower to try to rid myself of the odor of the pus. The patient begged the doctors for that one last mercy, and he requested that I give him that last injection, an overdose of morphine. The doctors conferred and wrote the order, and I administered the injection. I shall never forget the gratitude in that patient's eyes.

It was not illegal. Only with the advent of medicine for profit did life-support apply to those who wished for death. The dying patient became a slave to the machine that pumped his breath into his lungs.

Should suicide become legal? Those who are able to do it will do it, and only God can judge them. The suicide law is not relevant - except for those who are unable to do it themselves. Only the totally helpless are deprived of that last mercy. The liberation of death eludes them, as a heavenly flask of water set before them that they cannot reach.

Would I, as a nurse, intercede? Not I. I do not have the courage of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

- Mary Matosian Morabito

Temple City

Kevorkian is a serial murderer who until now has figured a way to get away with it.

- Max Rosenfeld

Los Angeles

Jack Kevorkian was not a practicing physician, yet he administered a lethal dose of medication killing a person. For this he is doing justified time in the joint.

Conditions for an unnatural death by lethal injection are firmly rejected by the American Medical Association. In their Policy 140.952, the AMA position is: ``Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician's professional role.''

If physicians are warned against the practice of physician-assisted suicide, what kind of ``practitioner,'' other than Dr. Death, would administer the lethal dose? A slippery slope, indeed.

I am a woman who was involved in a serious auto accident. I have lost the ability to walk. I roll now. I have lost bowel and bladder control. I use diapers. It took me two years to stop looking at what I lost and begin to celebrate what remains. Today, I am the executive director of a nonprofit agency, a newspaper columnist and a radio broadcaster. I have 283 hours of care a month to live life fully and independently.

In California, physicians can use the Intractable Pain Act to administer opiate drugs, regardless of respiratory concerns. Why don't doctors use this? Because most doctors don't know it exists.

There is life after a disabling condition. A natural death with dignity takes tenacity and endurance, with good pain management and sound health care policies. Jack, have a good life in the slammer!

- Maggie Dee-Dowling

Pittsburg, Calif.

If the laws were changed to allow euthanasia, it would add yet another layer of hypocrisy and illogic to our already absurd drug laws. On the one hand, it would be legal to administer drugs to someone that would certainly kill them, but the manufacture, distribution, sale or possession of drugs that may only harm one's health would carry stiff legal penalties.

- Jay Stewart

Lancaster

I do not believe Dr. Kevorkian should be in jail. These people came to him for help. I think I should have the right to say if I want to live or die.

If I had a sickness that had me in a lot of pain and my doctor could not help me, I would be looking for Dr. Kevorkian. You can bet on it. I would not want to live with Lou Gehrig's disease. I sure hope he is still around if I need him. I think putting him in jail is wrong.

- Wilda Summers

Arleta

We live under a legal system that has become so expensive that 90 percent of the population cannot afford to defend our own constitutional rights. Most of us must stand back helplessly and watch our rights as law-abiding citizens slowly and constantly erode.

Some citizens do stand up, only to buckle under the considerable financial pressures that can easily be brought to bear on a nonconformer. On occasion a citizen steps forward with the financial resources and, more importantly, the will to fight a sustained legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court.

Such citizens literally throw away a personal fortune to protect the rights of others. Jack Kevorkian is one such hero. Not only is he willing to sacrifice his personal fortune, but once again he must also sacrifice his personal freedom.

Love him or hate him, you have to give him credit for standing up for what he believes in. He is but a David taking on an unyielding Goliath of a system. He is an underdog in every sense of the word. Yet, he is giving it his all, and in so doing may do more to protect our personal freedom than most of us are willing to do for ourselves. This country needs more like him.

- Donald Katona

Northridge

The sentence of Dr. Kevorkian was not justified. He was drawing attention to the fact that some compassionate people feel they have the right to decide they don't want to be a burden on all their friends and loved ones for months or maybe years.

I am 75 years old and in fair health, but if I were to be in what I believed to be a hopeless condition, as in this case of assisted suicide, I think I should have the right to make that decision.

To call this case murder is ridiculous. The judge appeared to be biased and vindictive.

- Ralph Rounsavall

North Hollywood

Assisted suicide should be legal. However, there is no need to involve the medical profession in the actual killing. Specialized training for 12 years is not required to kill human beings. People are killed every day in California by rank amateurs.

This is a perfect task for government, using unskilled professionals who relish in the bureaucratic controls necessary to ensure that only the proper clients are dispatched - especially if they are wealthy. Multicultural sensitivity training will be required.

- James H. Steger

Camarillo

Jack Kevorkian got the sentence he deserved. Despite claims that his motives were compassionate - and mostly unquestioning acceptance of this assertion by the media - his own words and deeds have revealed him to be an egomaniac with an agenda that would have fit quite well into the medical climate of Nazi Germany.

While media reports, including coverage of the Thomas Youk killing aired on ``60 Minutes,'' tend to focus on people with terminal conditions, some two-thirds of Kevorkian's victims had nonterminal conditions, including a large group with multiple sclerosis, a condition I have lived with for more than 20 years.

For those of us with disabilities who thoroughly resent the Kevorkian message that it's better to be dead than disabled, this verdict is something of an affirmation that our lives are, indeed, worthwhile. However, most of us also realize that Kevorkian is just the tip of the iceberg.

Those of us who live with disabilities know that, given the right health and support services, we can - and do - live good, full lives. Stereotypes, ignorance and fear about disability, not only in society at large but also in the medical profession, contribute to the sense of hopelessness that often leads people to commit suicide. But given the facts about living a good life with a disability - and access to needed services - many who once contemplated suicide change their minds.

Unfortunately, once legalized, physician-assisted suicide is sure to influence the operation of our cost-driven health-care system, most likely in ways that would reduce access to those very services. That already appears to be happening in the Oregon Medicaid system.

- Laura Remson Mitchell

Winnetka

So, now that there's a doctor who makes house calls, nobody wants him. Dr. Kevorkian is doing a 10- to 25-year slide for murder. If he'd gotten the death penalty, would they have let him administer the lethal injection? Also, I'll bet you a cookie that he'll be under suicide watch.

- Loyal Bruno

West Hills

We believe that the long prison term given to Dr. Jack Kevorkian is ludicrous. Dr. Kevorkian is not a murderer, and if this sentence stands he will be a martyr.

We share an opinion of Dr. Kevorkian based on our personal experiences with family pain, disease and suffering. We are both adult orphans. Nancy was forced to witness the tragedy of cancer in her mother a few years ago. My mother suffered a severe stroke, which led to a long-term coma. We are grateful to God that our mothers suffered for only a short time before their deaths. We can only imagine how difficult it would be to be in Dr. Kevorkian's place. He has seen suffering among people who were afflicted with horrible, painful illnesses far worse than those of our mothers.

The only argument I have heard against the assisted suicides - and the case at issue today - is that it is up to God, not us. As Christians, we respect this viewpoint, but we offer the rebuttal that God has given us the knowledge to diagnose disease and to give prognoses. Therefore, God may also have given us the responsibility to treat illnesses in a manner that ends suffering, whether through a cure or other way.

We are confident that our shock and disgust with this horrible persecution of a good man is shared by many American citizens, probably including all of us who have watched a loved member of the family waste away and die without dignity.

- Charles Murray

Nancy Otto

Chatsworth

I think Dr. Kevorkian has been punished wrongly. He's been brave enough to assist in death. I've seen too many people suffer, clinging to life. He's only aiding them at this difficult time. I feel we have a right to choose death. Why are so many afraid? I believe there's a much better place out there than here on Earth. Focus on religion, not death. I can only hope Dr. Kevorkian is around if I need his assistance.

- Casey Hamilton

Marina Del Rey

The judgment against Dr. Jack Kevorkian is a sad miscarriage of justice. Doctors routinely end the lives of terminally ill patients. I watched my own mother, comatose and riddled with cancer, die quickly after her doctor ordered a sufficiently large dose of morphine. This happens every day in every hospital, but the medical profession just doesn't talk about it.

Shouldn't all desperately ill patients, still rational but suffering horrendous pain without let-up or the possibility of a cure, have the right to choose to die?

Assisted suicide is already state law in Oregon. Dr. Kevorkian should not be rotting in a prison cell. He is only leading the way toward solving a humanitarian problem that society will eventually realize is necessary and correct.

- Raymond E. Goldstone

Van Nuys

Should the laws be changed to allow for euthanasia? Definitely.

We, husband-and-wife senior citizens, would beg for euthanasia if we contracted a painful, incurable disease and, if not allowed by law and refused, we'd have no other choice but to end our own lives by going on a hunger strike.

We both admire Dr. Kevorkian for his guts and actions. We feel distressed that Dr. Kevorkian was sentenced to jail. He is definitely not a criminal.

- Edmond R. and Nabila Mansoor

Thousand Oaks

While I do not actively support or believe in suicide as the definitive answer to terminal illness, I believe strongly in freedom of choice.

The sentencing of Dr. Kevorkian was in no way justified, especially when one considers testimony by the deceased's family. Assisted suicide should be legal.

The only true beneficiaries in this case are the large pharmaceutical houses and the American Medical Association.

Did the judge and jurors in the Kevorkian case ever picture themselves lying in an ICU, with tubes protruding from every orifice and needles in both arms, connected to machines and staring up at people who look no different than bowling pins, even though they might be lifelong friends?

- R.L. Lawrence

Los Angeles

The idea of assisted suicide was always supported wholeheartedly by me. I was in in so much physical pain for so many years - 37 years, to be exact - that if Dr. Kevorkian had been local, I would have been gone long ago. He wasn't close by, however, and to my surprise and utter amazement, after surgery I got well.

So now, I'm rethinking this euthanasia thing. Sometimes hopeless isn't as hopeless as we might believe.

- Barbara Talbert

Santa Clarita

As a firm believer in the complete freedom of every individual to choose and do with his own life whatever he desires, providing it hurts no other person or people, I support and praisefully admire Dr. Jack Kevorkian for his sympathetic courage and humane action assisting anyone of sane mind who so desires to make a transition from agonizing pain and indignities to peace and happiness.

Dr. Kevorkian has acted mercifully and humanely in each instance where it has been the personal and divinely free will of the individual to escape from agony and indignity, according to the God-given right to choose. I pray that Dr. Kevorkian is freed to live his own life in love for his fellow man.

It is a travesty on justice to imprison and condemn an individual acting in mercy, without personal gain or profit to himself, but solely to give comfort and peace. I sincerely believe and urge that our law should be changed to allow for euthanasia.

- Ruth Fredericks

Hidden Hills

My feelings are that we are better to our animals than to other humans suffering from terminal diseases.

I also feel that this is something that should have the backing of two other physicians, to confer on a given case and really know if this is a terminal stage and if suffering is so severe that the person cannot get any more help from drugs to drag out their painful existence.

There are times, when the pain is so intense that a person has to give up; why not let them go in dignity and peace!

I believe that Dr. Kevorkian is doing a service to humanity, as long as he is prudent and responsible. I think the man that was seen on ``60 Minutes'' only assisted and that if the judge who sentenced Dr. Kevorkian had a family member who suffered from this dreaded disease, the judge might have seen this in a whole different light.

- Gretchen H. Hoshida

Glendale

For the opponents of Jack Kevorkian: When your mother, father, sister, brother or child is dying of a terminal illness and in excruciating, agonizing pain, I wonder what you'll think of Dr. Kevorkian then. Until you've actually experienced the horrific impact of a dying family member, the opponents of Dr. Kevorkian will probably never understand. I can only think of one word for Dr. Kevorkian's opponents, who can watch a family member suffer in agonizing pain: monster.

Dr. Kevorkian deserves an honorable mention, not a prison sentence.

Legalize assisted suicide or whatever name you want to give it, but let's end the horrible, needless suffering that terminally ill patients endure.

Maybe when an opposing politician or doctor is suffering in excruciating pain, from cancer or some other type of disease, he'll praise Dr. Kevorkian, but it will be too late for them.

- Linda Nahan

Sherman Oaks

My life is my own. The state was not there at my birth, and they are uninvited and may not officiate at the time of my death. Now I would put the question to you: After you had been diagnosed with a debilitating, degenerating or terminal illness and had run the gauntlet of treatments to no avail, would you:

Place your ultimate fate in the hands of a posturing, preening, verbose cabal of lawyers, judges, politicians and theologians, all of whom are willing to prolong your suffering and treat it as nothing more than an opportunity to debate over their own moral shortcomings, all the while denying you the release you so desperately seek; or

Seek the service of a person skilled in these matters, who would allow you the time and place of your choosing, and who would supply the method or the apparatus that would allow you to leave this life painlessly with your dignity intact?

- Daniel Taylor

Tujunga

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Dr. Jack Kevorkian is removed in handcuffs after being sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison for the death of Thomas Youk, which was broadcast on ``60 Minutes.''

Vaughn Gurganian/Pool
COPYRIGHT 1999 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 24, 1999
Words:2924
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