Mercy Killing and the Good Death
Kenneth L. Vaux
Most of the condemnatory response to "It's Over, Debbie" 1 has rightly claimed that what (apparently) transpired that night was unconscionable. One does not stumble angrily into the night and decide profound matters of life and death for another human being. This strange narrative does not tell us whether Debbie wanted simply to be relieved of pain or released from intolerable suffering; whether the family consented or what the nurses or chaplains on call advised; or whether the attending or primary physician, if one existed, authorized the action. The whole process, from beginning to end, was morally unacceptable.
A deeper question, however, lies behind the widespread interest in this one reprehensible action—the question that troubles us all. As I lie dying, will I be offered humane care, will I be done in too soon by some expediency, or will I be subjected to terminal torture?
Euthanasia does not refer to Nazi-like elimination of the sick, old, or unproductive, and, because it lacks any account of patient consent, "It's Over, Debbie" is in no way an accurate representation of any form of euthanasia. Traditionally, euthanasia means the search____________________