Humanistic Perspectives in Medical Ethics

By Maurice B. Visscher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
THE RIGHT TO DIE

EXPERIENCES OF TWO-THIRDS OF A CENTURY

Walter C. Alvarez

Soon after I started to practice medicine, back in 1906, I had to turn away a poor woman whose husband had disappeared when he heard that she was pregnant again. She was frantic to be aborted. The frail little woman had worked every day, rain or shine, as a waitress in a small dining room. Her husband was a good-for-nothing alcoholic who came home one day and made out that he was so repentant, and so loving, that she let him into her bed; the result was a pregnancy, and he disappeared. She said to me, "I already have five children; if I have another one, how am I going to take care of him? I have no mother to be a baby-sitter, and my eldest children aren't old enough to be baby-sitters." I felt so sorry for her I would gladly have performed the little operation, but, as I had a wife and children to take care of, I didn't care to go to jail.

Our cruel laws were not interested in those problems; they didn't care what a nice little waitress with no money or support was going to do with the baby. They were not concerned with the dangers of bringing up a child

-62-

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