ANGEL OF DARKNESS or angel of light? The name Jack Kevorkian evokes a variety of responses from people across the United States. At one end of the spectrum, the name signals revulsion and fear. Some, including handicapped people, feel that assisted suicide will lead to the elimination of those whom society finds too cumbersome to accommodate. On the other end are those who see assisted suicide as a light at the end of a tunnel of terrible suffering, a dignified end to a life of tubes and pain, semiconsciousness and fear.
Between these two poles there are probahly as manv opinions as there are people. We all face an unknown future; none of us are immune to suffering. Among us are people who care deeply about life and believe in the value of the gift, but are at the same time perplexecl by the conditions under which some endure this life. Although Kevorkian already faces possible prosecution for murder in his right-to-death campaign, in June he was present at another suicide, the 24th. "Present" implies that as a medical doctor he has in some way facilitated a terminal patient's passage from this life. In May John Evans died in Kevorkian's company. He was a retired Unitarian minister and longtime peace activist who wrote that he had once considered carrying out his suicide inside a church because "the finality of this act has a religious quality."
The U.S. is not the only country in which citizens have contended with this question. A number of wrenching situations have placed the issue of life and death on the front page of the Canadian conscience. Indeed, a senate committee has struggled with the question of euthanasia, assisted suicide and related matters in recent months. The committee has requested deadline extensions, an indication of its difficulty in reaching a consen sus .
Recently, Canadians have been struggling with the emotional and …