Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Assisted Suicide for Those Not Terminally Ill

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Assisted Suicide for Those Not Terminally Ill

Article excerpt

The 7 December 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contains a letter to the editor from Michigan's Oakland County medical examiner L.J. Dragovic, along with Lori A Roscoe, Julie E. Malphurs, and Donna Cohen of the University of South Florida, that presents a "descriptive clinical analysis" of sixty-nine people known to have died with the assistance or intervention of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in that county in 1990-98. The most striking claim in the brief account was that only 25 percent of these persons had been classified as terminally ill.

Residents of Michigan who had been following the Kevorkian saga in the local media might well have wondered what was news here. The fact that the majority of those seeking Kevorkian's assistance suffered from degenerative diseases rather than from obviously terminal conditions had been well documented for some time. In 1997, the Detroit Free Press launched a major investigative series, later reprinted in book form as The Suicide Machine, that studied forty-seven of Kevorkian's cases (some from outside Oakland County). My quick survey of the newspaper accounts, tilted to give a terminal prognosis in doubtful cases, suggests this breakdown: sixteen were terminally ill; twenty-three suffered from a degenerative disease but were not terminal; seven had poor quality of life due to medical conditions but were not terminal; and one was apparently misdiagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. …

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