This article is part of the Arthritis Archives.
Dateline: March 10, 1998
Mercy Killing or Suicide?
The body of a 61-year-old woman from Roanoke, Virginia was dropped off at a hospital by Dr. Jack Kevorkian and an associate on Thursday March 5, 1998. A note with the body indicated that the woman suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Just a few hours earlier Kevorkian dropped off the body of a 42-year-old Boston man at a different hospital. A note with the man's body indicated he suffered from fibromyalgia. Both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia are painful, but nonterminal disorders.
Dr. Kevorkian has admitted to taking part in more than 80 suicides over the years. Physician assisted suicide has been controversial throughout the span of time whilst Kevorkian has helped patients end their lives. Kevorkian has found supporters among people against the long-suffering of the terminally ill. He has found understanding and empathy among people experiencing:
He has found allies among the families of terminally ill patients and among pro-choice advocates. Yet he has been denounced by people against his role in assisted suicide and against its legalization. People feeling strongly that there are alternative options to assisted suicide have openly argued against Kevorkian's activities. So far states, prosecutors, juries, and the highest courts have not stopped him.
In view of the most recent news and two previous similar incidents, Kevorkian seemingly has expanded the criteria of who he is willing to help terminate their life to include nonfatal illnesses. Shock waves rippled through rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia patients as they realized last week that two fellow sufferers lost all sight of hope and chose to end their life. Though certainly the frustration and complete energy drain felt by chronic pain sufferers is corroborated, what might have lead these two people to believe that their suffering was beyond help and beyond all hope?
Beyond All Hope?
The most vital consideration for chronic pain sufferers is how best to manage their pain. The limitation, imposition, and interference that severe pain places on daily living is what the chronic pain sufferer must confront and conquer. The sufferer requires support from an array of sources:
These actions are all necessary. Presumably there is failure at each level of needed support for a person to feel that their situation is hopeless.
Patients look to their physicians for help with controlling pain. The undertreatment of chronic pain has become a genuine concern. Physicians have been accused of withholding narcotics for pain treatment for reasons such as fear of patient addiction and fear of lawsuits. A solution must be found among all the treatment options so that a patient never is left to feel hopeless from uncontrolled pain. If a patient is unsatisfied with his physician's treatment plan he should continue his journey from doctor to doctor in search of relief.
The are Pain Management Centers throughout the country that exist with the purpose of helping people manage and cope with chronic pain. The search for relief may be down a long, winding road but what could justify the end of the search and the deliberate end of a life?