Posts Tagged ‘Ross Douthat’

Dr. Kevorkian’s death has certainly prompted the national conversation on our rights as we near the end of our lives. Death is a difficult subject and an excruciating dialogue for many of us and we all need as much guidance and assistance from wise people to navigate that road.  Unfortunately, the NY Times did not really help that dialogue this morning.

Comments had to be closed down for this NY Times op-ed contribution:  “Dr. Kevorkian’s Victims” by Ross Douthat.  Understandably so.  The title is inaccurate and designed to incite argument either by clever avoidance or simple ignorance.  Further down in the op-ed piece he writes around other facts about Dr. Kevorkian.

If you’re reading this blog post and would like factual information on Dr. Kevorkian’s practices – I refer you to the 2010 documentary  KEVORKIAN.  

Since the NY Times comments are closed, I share my comments on Mr. Douthat’s op-ed here:

(1) Dr. Kevorkian had no “victims”.  People came to him seeking his assistance.  In the documentary you can see actual footage of their requests.

(2) Dr. Kevorkian was not called Dr. Death because he assisted so many suffering people who were ready to end their lives — he was called Dr. Death because he was a military doctor who was highly skilled at observing the exact moment of death of soldiers on the battlefield.  He was responsible for “person to person” blood transfusions on the battlefield and saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

(3) US doctors and medical professionals assist their patients in easing and quickening death every day.   When doctors come to the family and say, “There is nothing more we can do,” they begin procedures to allow the patient to die, and sometimes depending on the family’s wishes, they speed and ease that process with drugs.  When the doctors tell you, “All we can do now is make him/her comfortable,”  this is their industry code for letting you know that they are administering pain relief medication and they will continue to increase the dosage to toxic levels until the person becomes unconsious and eventually passes away.    And sometimes US doctors hasten death by simple neglect when they prefer to stay home on a weekend and wait until Monday to see a patient of theirs who was admitted to the emergency room.

Douthat is either very naive of hospital procedures or a very skilled propagandist with an agenda for dramatic impact.   He writes  “We do not generally praise doctors who help dispatch their terminally ill patients, as Kevorkian repeatedly and unashamedly did. Even when death is inevitable and inevitably painful, it is not considered merciful to prescribe an overdose to a cancer victim against her will.”

We quietly praise doctors every day for easing transition to death.  It is one of the most difficult things they do.   Drugs are often used to ease a patient’s transition to death – and it is merciful –  but to insert the “against her will” at the end of  the 2nd sentence has the writer leading the reader to believe that Dr. Kevorkian’s patients were being eased into death against their will.  Video footage in the documentary will show you time and time again that this is not the case.   And to compare Dr. Kevorkian’s work to the act of  “gently smother a sleeping Alzheimer’s patient,” is just an invitation to take a ride on Douthat’s  dramatic opinions train rather than a sharing of helpful facts.  But maybe that’s what op-eds are for.

I wish I had known point #3 earlier. I am grateful to the people who taught me.  Knowing it now assists me in being informed and doing my best to be a presence of love and strength for friends and family in the midst of life’s most difficult transition.

Douthat’s opinion might be more valuable to us if he actually relayed any facts of his own experiences from his vigils with friends and family while they died.   Mr. Douthat can you tell us – What is the value of watching your loved ones suffer needlessly as they die?  What inspirations did they have as they suffered?  Was your life made better by watching them suffer?  Just wondering.

If you’re reading this blog post and would like factual information on Dr. Kevorkian’s practices – I refer you to the 2010 documentary  KEVORKIAN


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