Saturday, May 26, 2007

I don't Kevork, but he did. Will he again?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- For nearly a decade, Dr. Jack Kevorkian waged a defiant campaign to help other people kill themselves....

But as he prepares to leave prison June 1 after serving more than eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence in the death of a Michigan man, Kevorkian will find that there's still only one state that has a law allowing physician-assisted suicide -- Oregon.

Experts say that's because abortion opponents, Catholic leaders, advocates for the disabled and often doctors have fought the efforts of other states to follow the lead of Oregon, where the law took effect in late 1997...

'End-of-life care has increased dramatically'' in Oregon with more hospice referrals and better pain management, says Valerie Vollmar, a professor at Oregon's Willamette University College of Law who writes extensively on physician-assisted death.

Opponents and supporters of physician-assisted death say more needs to be done to offer hospice care and pain treatment for those who are dying and suffering from debilitating pain.

''The solution here is not to kill people who are getting inadequate pain management, but to remove barriers to adequate pain management,'' said Burke Balch, director of the Powell Center for Medical Ethics at the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes assisted suicide....

Kevorkian has promised he'll never again advise or counsel anyone about assisted suicide once he's out of prison. But his attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said Kevorkian isn't going to stop pushing for more laws allowing it.

My father suffered during his final days (indeed, during his final year or more), and we with him. His strong heart held out much longer than anyone anticipated. He was able to avoid being moved from the room at the assisted care facility that he was used to (we brought in a hospital bed and other assistive equipment to help him move about), and we managed to avoid catheters and invasive tubes and machines. He largely stopped eating, although we tried to keep him (naturally) hydrated as best we could. We worked with a superb geriatrician, and reached a consensus in his last weeks that our goal was to make Dad as comfortable as possible, without invasive interventions that would only slow the inevitable. We arranged for hospice care over the final weeks, and the hospice team kept him comfortable with appropriate pain care. They were also excellent in providing psychological support both for him and for us. Although there were some misunderstandings and mis-steps along the way, all those involved in Dad's care brought compassion and dedication to their task. In the hours after his death, many of those involved in his care came by to hold his hand, some to kiss him, and to say goodbye. I'm very glad "doing away with him" was not an option on the menu, for him, for the family, or for the caregivers.

We were, of course, very lucky to have the resources and access to caregivers to make this possible. Others don't.

And, of course, others think differently.

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