Euthanasia Essay - Concerns About Euthanasia

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A medical examiner from Oakland County, Michigan and three researchers from the University of South Florida have studied key characteristics of 69 patients whose suicides were assisted by Jack Kevorkian between 1990 and 1998. Their findings are published in the December 7 New England Journal of Medicine.

Autopsies show that only 25 percent of Kevorkian's clients were terminally ill when he helped them kill themselves. "Seventy-two percent of the patients had had a recent decline in health status that may have precipitated the desire to die." However, "no anatomical disease was confirmed at autopsy" in 5 of the 69 people. In light of the generally lower rate of suicide among women, it was notable that 71% of these patients were
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* An August 1993 Roper poll funded by the Hemlock Society and other euthanasia supporters indicated that voters aged 18-29 supported "physician-aided suicide" 47% to 35%; voters aged 60 and older opposed it 45% to 35%. Hemlock's newsletter commented that "the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to favor this legislation." The newsletter added that "this is somewhat at odds with how Hemlock views its membership," since it sees itself as defending the interests of elderly citizens. (Humphry; Poll 9) A study of cancer patients found that terminally ill patients experiencing significant pain are more opposed to physician-assisted suicide than other terminally ill patients or the general public. The patients who did tend to favor assisted suicide were those who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. The researchers commented: "Patients with pain do not seem to view euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide as the appropriate response to poor pain management. Indeed, oncology patients in pain may be suspicious that if euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are legalized, the medical care system may not focus sufficient resources on provision of pain relief and palliative care" (Emanuel 1809)

* Researchers at Duke University recently surveyed hundreds of frail elderly patients receiving outpatient treatment and their families. The elderly patients themselves strongly opposed physician-assisted suicide: only 34% favored legalization,
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