Dear Dr. Kevorkian….

I don’t know what to think about you, now that your times with old vans and found equipment and various drugs and carbon monoxide and such have ended. You’ve become a trademark for assisted suicide, but not the kind that you can get in Switzerland or places like Oregon where the scenario is soothing and swift and managed.  Who knows if those places would exist, if not for you and your shenanigans? Who knows how many people you helped?  Who knows how many you didn’t help, but killed anyway? Who arbitrates these things?  Are you now standing at the gates of St. Peter while he tallies up the scores against you, those for you? Or have you already been judged, here or there?

Life as a person with a chronic disease means that sometimes, you think about assisted suicide. I’ve seen the folks with end stage MS. I’ve watched my family members suffer through illnesses that cause them endless pain.  I’ve watched others slip away easily, calmly, painfree. I’ve watched family pets do so also. And as a nurse, I’ve seen patients who were eased a bit into their deaths, helped with just that slightly high dose of morphine, allowed to sleep until their bodies left. But I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know about deciding to put someone down.

It’s dodgy. You’d have to have checked to see if they were depressed and if that could be treated – but then, depression is a disease and it does destroy lives. The suffering with depression is as real as that with cancer. How would you knows who to provide your services to? Many argue the people have to show they are of sound mind – but how can you be sure they are of sound mind when they are often on many mind-altering medications?

I’m baffled about it. I honestly don’t know what I think. I know, for me, when it is time, I’ll want to arrange my own exit. But probably that choice will be beyond me by then. And if it isn’t beyond me, then I’ll want to stick around. It’s a chewy problem.

So, Dr. K, how the heck did you decide? How did you sleep at night?  Did you feel good about all the people you helped across the river? Or did you toss and turn, wondering?

We’ll never know the secrets in your heart and mind. Today, I’m thinking that overall, you did some good. You showed the US the issue of assisted suicide. I guess my worry is that it seems to be so easy to kill people down there, what with the capital punishment and all. And the treatment of mental illness is still pretty rudimentary.  I’d like to see that dealt with before too many people make the decision to take their own lives, assisted or not.

Wish I’d had a chance to speak with you, Dr. K. I’d have wanted to know about your certainty. As for me, I’m still awash in doubt.