spikes and have called for reforms in this area. Another issue in the United States is related to end- of-life care for those who are terminally ill. Relatives and friends of ailing patients often face the gut-wrenching decision of whether to keep an ailing relative or loved one alive using heroic measures , or whether to simply render palliative care and allow nature to take its course. A process known as assisted suicide takes the matter one step further. Systems have been set up in some countries and even certain US states that allow doctors to painlessly but efficiently put their patients to death. The theory is that certain diseases such as cancer can cause so much pain and take away so much quality of life that when death is inevitable anyway, it is best to speed the process along, painlessly and with dignity. This practice gained notoriety during the 1990s through the work of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an advocate of assisted suicide who used a machine that he invented to painlessly hasten the deaths of over 130 terminally ill patients. Kevorkian’s activities sparked a great deal of controversy, court battles, and an eventual jail term for second-degree murder in 1999. Those who oppose assisted suicide maintain that the procedure goes against everything that a doctor should be about. Doctors should be healers, they argue, and should preserve life, not take it. Instead, opponents often advocate for improved hospice care, in which a patient’s final days can be managed with dignity and their pain mitigated. Medical advances are rendering many diseases


Contemporary Issues: Health Care

Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker