Murder, or Mercy?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by SassySpy, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. SassySpy

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    Anyone see 60 Minutes tonight? They had a commentary about the alleged 'murder/mercy' killings, by medical professionals, in the hospital in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

    The victims were aged 61-90, and families have filed suit against the hospital, and medical professionals.

    OK I know a physicians first oath is 'do no harm'.
    But what about easing suffering?
    If it had been my aged family member in that hospital, who was terminal and had a DNR order, and was in 110 degree heat with no electricity or running water.. well tbh IF those doctors gave my family member a 'lethal' dose of pain medication that allowed them to pass on peacefully, I mean... I think I would thank them, not sue them.
    It is a touchy subject for some, and has undertones and overtones of Kevorkian behaviour. I have never been faced with this occurrence, so am only guessing how I would feel. I do know I am very much an 'ease pain' person, all the time. I personally never took issue with Kevorkians actions, illegal or not, people were relieved of pain and had their wishes honoured.

    How would you feel, if it were someone you cared for deeply, and they were suffering?
    Would you see it as mercy? or murder?
     
  2. B_New End

    B_New End New Member

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  3. Osiris

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    Finally someone on this board mentions something very painful. I left college to return home and care for my terminally ill mother. She was suffering from an extremely invasive form of cancer called infiltrating adanocarcinoma. She was on 8 grains of morphine an hour, her arm swollen to twice it's size due to fluid, hair gone due to chemo, open weeping sores on her breast and the skin on her breast had hardened to something akin to hardened leather.

    Daily I prayed that God would call her home, but nothing. I also could not help her die. Best thing I did was allow her to die on her own terms and in her own home. She passed 23 years ago this past January.

    Some may call me a coward for not giving my mother a lethal dose of medication as I could have. I choose to think I did right by her.

    New Orleans was a tough call, I can accept a mercy killing, but I don't know if I could accept someone unrelated to me making that decision for a loved one of mine.
     
  4. DeepFun

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    How would you know for sure? If they were given a choice, if they were asked would they rather die than be subjected to heat and humidity or the possible looming presence of a hurricane that may or may not hit their area. I think THAT is the real question at hand. These were not their lives to make decisions with, it wasn't their right to just assume that death would be the better option. As I have heard it, these people just made these decisions without consulting with the families or the patients, and if that is an accurate portrayal of the facts, then they had no right to do this.

    Personally, if it were just a question of it being difficult to move them, then I'd still have done anything to get that accomplished. Putting one person to death wouldn't even have entered my mind, much less more than one of them. And I don't consider myself to be the most compassionate person around either, but I'm serious, putting someone to death would not even have occurred to me as an option. Imagine how many people you could have called that would have helped, especially if they had any notion that the only other option was to kill them. Even if the lines were down, cell phones are everywhere. I just have a profound problem with death being considered a realistic option, no matter the heat or humidity or wind bearing down or whatever difficulty it was to get them moved.

    There should be repercussions for these people for making a horrendously bad decision. Whatever the penalty, they will be lucky if it isn't a charge for murder, since that is exactly what it was.

    COmpassion is something else entirely. They had no right to decide that death was the best thing they could come up with. No right. Imagine of someone had decided that for you, about you. It just could not have been the "best" decision available. It was certainly the dumbest thing they could have done.

    Think how ANY other decision would have been justifiable, even laudable, admirable. Think how indefensible this decision is. So they're saying that wind or heat or comfort was the issue? Sorry, if it was my Mother or Father or sister or relative supposedly killed for their considerations of comfort, or because they were an inconvenience, or difficult to move, none of those things would have ANY weight with me.
     
  5. wonderland

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    Were you on vacation that week?? Who were they supposed to call? The government...I didn't see them being a big help.
    I consider myself lucky to have been far away from the hurricane zone. Given the same situation I am not sure that I would have done things differently. I could not imagine the horror in that hospital. It is easy for people who have never been in a horrible critical situation to sit back and say things could have been done differently. It may not have been the best decision but I do not feel it was murder.
     
  6. 50%more

    50%more New Member

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    My condolences Osiris, and I agree.
     
  7. Drifterwood

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    I think that this is one of the great ethical debates of our time. Even if you are religiously minded and follow the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", this does not necessarily mean the same as thou shalt keep alive.

    In parts of Europe we can dictate that in the event of our becoming incapable of consenting to medical intervention to keep us alive in a vegetative state, we refuse that intervention. I am sure that we also turn a blind eye and let people go.

    Keeping people alive with no hope of any quality of life just brings misery to everyone involved.
     
  8. SassySpy

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    :hug: condolences, O. I know how you feel, my dad died at home, as he wanted, as well. and yes, strangers, making that decision- was really a bit of a sticking point for me, too

    you are way better informed about this particular story than me, I only caught some, but enough to make me think about it. the principle of euthanasia.
    If the New orleans case was one of convenience, I agree with you 100%. Not so heroic to make an irreversible decision based on the ease of moving someone.


    I am sickened when I see what people had to contend with in those first days, as our illustrious wonderful leader gazed from the relative comfort of his helicopter. BAH! There was no help for anyone at first- and wasnt it only media attention that seemed to galvanize the government into action? I was reminded of the Rodney a King riots in LA and how little was done for so long...disgusting.

    yeah, when I was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer, the first thing I did was get paperwork together so NO ONE could doubt what I wanted, and begged my mother to be sure they were followed in the event I was unable to advocate for myself. She was in deep disagreement with me however, but thats another story...

    I would never advocate euthanasia if this was not known to be the patients wishes, in the event it should become necessary. As for families making that decision, well, in my experience families are often thinking from a very emotional and not always objective place, and may not necessarily be appropriate for such a decision either. Thats why I think its important for every person to think about their own loved ones, and the responsibility placed upon their shoulders at an already difficult time, and get your wishes in writing. Dont leave that decision in other peoples hands, only you can decide what you really want.
     
  9. SassySpy

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  10. Drifterwood

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    Sassy, do you think that the medical profession should keep people alive, just because they have the means to?

    Are there cases where doing harm would actually be in keeping someone alive in misery with no hope of regaining any quality of life?
     
  11. SassySpy

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    no, really, I dont think they should personally- but they have a code of ethics to follow and I do believe they should honour that. If they cannot, then imo, their moral values are questionable and I don't trust them. I started college with intent to go to medical school, specializing in psychiatry, and many reasons including such as this influenced my change in direction.
    I think there are loads of instances of 'doing more harm than good' basically- and it is a moral dilemma for many compassionate medical professionals. Our medical technology is such now that it is possible to keep someone alive, but not necessarily "living". I am glad its not a decision I have to face daily, cos I dont think I could do it.
    For me, even as passionately as I feel about quality of life, and right to choose, and retaining one's dignity- it is still a very difficult issue ( euthanasia ) for me to commit to a single conclusion that applies 100% of the time. Too many variables exist- but my one persevering conviction is I don't believe one should ever have to suffer because of decisions made for them by others. Seems the big dilemma always occurs when the person who is suffering can't express their wishes, and others try to guess. I wouldnt want to live the rest of my life wondering if the decision I was forced to make , the right one?
     
  12. ledroit

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    mercy.

    It's not a question of "strangers" usurping a right. It's a question of responsibility, and it's analogous to a good soldier killing his friend to put him out of his misery when death is certain and suffering is pointless. It's the only decent thing you can do in some situations, even if it feels as though you are virtually killing yourself.

    I'm glad I grew up on a farm, where it was sometimes necessary to kill animals to spare them pointless suffering. No matter what you think the word "God" refers to, you know it is exactly the right thing to do, and the moral, ethical thing to do.

    All the more reason when a human being is involved to use common sense.

    When it comes to religion, I think there is a logical inconsistency. If people believe they can be inspired in the most important and difficult choices, and that religious experience is what guides them in the most complex ones, why can't a responsible decision to end someone's suffering be religiously motivated? Why can't it be exactly what a holy person would do? What if that is exactly what "God" wants people to do?

    Nothing in nature or the animal world to me suggests that this would be sacrilegious.






     
  13. BurningVenus

    BurningVenus New Member

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  14. DC_DEEP

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    I have not read the article. However, I do have some fairly specific thoughts on the matter.

    The primary concern should be the patients' wishes. (One good reason every person should have that difficult decision with a loved one!) Those who have filed suit should have questionable standing - I'm not saying they are either completely justified or completely not justified. If the patient was incapable of making his wishes known, there should have been another responsible person to make those decisions. If that person could not be reached, the medical professionals should not have given lethal doses, but neither should they have resorted to "heroic measures." They should have given the treatment that they could be reasonably expected to give, and nothing more, nothing less.

    Before I had my last surgeries, I had a long talk with my partner. He gave me a funny look, and said, "They are just doing surgery on your feet, it's not major or high-risk surgery." I replied that any time a patient has to be anesthetized, it IS major, high-risk surgery. We discussed what my wishes would be if anything went wrong in the OR. I had specifics for my own personal definition of "heroic measures," and several instances of DNR requests on record. We signed legal documents, with me giving him durable medical power of attorney.

    As for Dr. Kevorkian, it annoys me that people who have no personal interest in his patients would be so "outraged." It's not like he was just going around killing people who wanted to live. His patients were terminally ill, and had limited life expectancy and quality of life. It is between him and his patient if that patient says, "Doc, I'm in terrible pain, and I'm expected to live only for another 5 months with intensive treatments. I don't want to live like that. I want to die comfortably this week, rather than suffer another 30 weeks. Please help me die sooner."
     
  15. SassySpy

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    you make some very good analogies, 'Grasshopper':smile: I too, grew up on a farm, and the animal world was the source of much of my early education about... well..many things! :tongue: I also had horses and rodeo'd for many years.. injuries were not uncommon, and I once had to put a bullet between my horse's eyes..as he had fallen down the side of a mountain. Severely injured, he could not get up, we were about 10 miles deep in the Cascade forest, no rescue was possible..it was a decision that still haunts me, even tho I know it was exactly as you said, the moral, ethical thing to do. Theres a look that enters an animals eyes.. you know it when you see it, like they are pleading with you, begging you, to help them not hurt anymore- or when they are just very old and tired, and want to rest.
    I have seen the same look in the eyes of human beings, some of them family, and it is gut wrenching. Especially when all you can do is watch them suffer, try to comfort, and beg whoever is in charge of pain, to take away theirs.
    I am not a religious person, so my empathy is focused on the needs of the one suffering, no one else's wishes affect my emotional response much.
    I dont think its very emotionally healthy, but I am a rescuer/nurturer by nature, and I always want to make the hurt go away, and many times, I can't.

    another good link, thank you. I know a little more about that specific story now, and you're right.. it was worse than awful. Trying to treat people with only the most basic supplies available, using flashlights to see- and they were told no help was coming. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I imagine what that must have been like, for everyone there. I know the doctor is adamant that they did not, and would not, intentially administer lethal doses for any reason. And she gave such a graphic account of the horrors they experienced, I don't know, I just am amazed at the strength some people possess.
    I think a few of the people I saw in those interviews need to take off their boots and walk a mile in some others moccasins for awhile, before passing judgment on others. They didnt live it, smell it, see it, or touch it. Shut the f*** up is all I wanna say to them.
     
  16. jakeatolla

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    My Father died of Lung Cancer. Or should I say that he drown in his own body, because of a fluid build up in his lungs caused by the amount of
    morphine they gave him to stop his suffering. No one deserves to suffer
    from that kind of pain.
     
  17. simcha

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    Yeah, this was such a tough call. Morals and ethics aren't 100% clear in any given situation. For me it would depend on the consent of the patients first. Then if the patients weren't able to give consent and their lives were in danger and there was no way to help them, they should have been made to feel comfortable.

    People forget that there was no help for such a very long time. The aftermath of Katrina was so devastating that civilization collapsed in New Orleans. The government was impotent and did nothing to alleviate the suffering of these people. The government should be held accountable, not these doctors who made the best decisions they could in conditions that most of us will never have to face. The government cheaped out on maintaining the levees on the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain. They refused to spend the money to keep the system sound enough to save lives. Had the levees been well maintained, the disaster in New Orleans wouldn't have happened as it did. The flooding wouldn't have happened. It would have been a whole different story.

    Also, people forget that morphine and the other opioid pain killers suppress breathing, as well as the entire nervous system. In 110 degree heat with 100% humidity it wouldn't take much for some of those older and infirm people who had terminal illnesses to die with any dose that made them comfortable. Yes, physicians are to do no harm. And what is harm? Is it harm to make people who are dying comfortable and chance that they will die? - or - Is it harmful to keep pain drugs away from people who are suffering greatly and dying from terminal illness because the drugs that would make them comfortable might kill them? Personally, I think it's more harmful to withhold the drugs that would allow these people to be comfortable. Is it more noble to suffer and die anyway? Is it somehow "cheating" to use pain medicine to be comfortable even if it hastens your death?

    I had surgery on my heart in April/May called a "catheter ablation" where catheters were inserted in my groin, threaded up through my veins to my heart. They mapped the electrical system of my heart and burned the areas that were causing my heart to beat too fast. I had to be conscious for the burning. It hurt like hell. Then they gave me pain meds intravenously once they felt that they had it the first time. Then I had a relapse within a week after the first surgery. Immediately I had another ablation where I was even more conscious and it hurt more. They worked on my heart for 4 hours the second time and I felt it every time they burned my heart. The pain meds afterwards in after care were a godsend. The second surgery was unsuccessful and my heart rate was still 160 beats per minute.

    They started me on an anti-arrhythmic beta blocker to slow my heart rate. Only that medicine had a potential side effect of stopping the heart completely. Basically, one of the potential side effects was "sudden death." Therefore I was watched for four days. The first night on the medicine, the machines were beeping furiously and I was woken up. My heart was pounding in my chest. I saw on the monitor that my heart rate was shooting up, higher and higher. The nurses rushed in with the crash cart. And, for a few seconds, I thought it might be the end. My heart rate soared past 220 beats per minute, which basically feels like it's going to leap out of your chest. Then as suddenly as the heart rate rose, it dropped down to 70 beats per minute. Basically, my doctor said that this was my heart resetting at a normal resting rate. It was terrifying and I could have died.

    My mother flew out for both surgeries and I made her promise that if something irreversable were to happen in surgery or on the new medication, and I was going to be a vegetable with no hope of recovery, that she should pull the plug and let me go. She promised. Now I'm writing up a living will because of this experience. I absolutely do not want to be resussitated if there is no hope for recovery.

    Thankfully, that medicine is still working to keep my heart at a normal rate until they develop another kind of surgery that is currently experimental. Hopefully in five or so years they will have the surgery for the outside of the heart perfected and I might get it and be cured and not need medication. I'm only 37. This condition happens to young people and for no good reason. I have no heart disease and no blockages in my veins or arteries. I was just unlucky to develop an Ectopic Atrial Tachycardia on the outside of my heart.

    I have had to face the reality that I'm quite mortal sooner than most. And I've had to face the possibility that what I have could kill me. It's manageable. The risk is low, and yet, it's still present. And I know I don't want to live as a vegetable, or even live as an infirm. I would want to be made comfortable and allowed to slip away if things got to that point.

    I watched my grandmother have a cerebral hemorrhage when she was 80. I drove her to the emergency room. They told me then that she could die in 10 minutes. Well, she survived. She was blind, unable to walk and her dementia was more pronounced. We watched her slowly fade away over 8 years. There were no extraordinary means taken to prolong her life. I guess her body and her will was stubborn and she held on to the bitter end. She literally wasted away before she died.

    I don't want that for myself. I don't want it at my age. And I don't want it when I'm 80.
     
  18. whatireallywant

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    I've come close to dying too. In 2003 I had an abscess that very nearly spread to my brain, and for a few days it was very iffy - the doctors couldn't do the surgery on me until the antibiotics started working and my condition stabilized. I was on a morphine drip every 15 minutes, of a similar dosage that they give to terminal cancer patients toward the very end of their lives. The medical staff asked me if I wanted to make a living will, but I was really too out of it to think about it at the time.

    I should probably do that though, before something like that happens again.
     
  19. B_New End

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  20. Rikter8

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    Im torn on this one.
    I say Mercy, however like others have stated, There's no clear separation.

    If you give the doctors the right, it will be abused, guaranteed.

    Before my father died, I would have said Yes, let them assist in deaths of terminally Ill patients so they do not have to suffer, but under controlled and documented conditions (Within hospital walls).

    After going through the fiasco and Lack of care that the hospital displayed, while my family sat day by day in horror of the mistakes, and NO ONE to help, I have a different perspective.

    Most people don't realize, if you or your family member has Cancer, of any form, the doctors can chop and dice you as they please, and there isn't one damn lawyer in this world that will help you.
    Cancer is more than an incurable disease, it's an instant death as the words roll out of the physician's mouth.

    I will never forget my fathers Respiratory therapist - "He's got stage 4 cancer, what do you want me to do about it"
    (context was because the hospital wasn't draining his lungs on schedule, and were using a filthy dirty suction tube)
    ...and then the autopsy.... No cancer found.

    I say make physicians fully responsable for the lives they care for.
    Don't protect them behind laws where family members cannot sue.
    Once you have that done, Docs will study harder in school, and choose more wisely before they hand out pills or prognosis of conditions.
     
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