Chronically III or Terminal? A Question for Legislatures
We are all terminal cases.
John W. Irving1
Dr. Jack Kevorkian's conviction of murder will not destroy the implications of his vision for medicine and law. Kevorkian's actions and rhetoric propose that a distinction between those patients who are chronically ill and those whose death is apparently imminent should be irrelevant to law. All "patients," in his view, expect a cure from medicine. When such a cure is not currently available, an individual physician should be the driver who quickly escorts those patients desiring death in the face of medical failure to their "resting place." In Kevorkian's opinion, the ethical or legal right of the physician to assist a patient's death depends solely upon what the individual patient and her physician decides.
At this writing, Kevorkian has responded to the calls of more than 130 chronic sufferers or terminally ill patients. Whether Janet Currens, his thirty-fifth "client" with chronic fatigue syndrome, for instance, had a "terminal illness" as defined by the current state of medical knowledge is, in Kevorkian's view, irrelevant. His role, as he defines it, is to end suffering. Kevorkian has enough institutional resources in terms of media presence and lay following to continue his crusade through others