By Susan Harper
Last week, three things occurred in my world at exactly the same time. First, a 29-year-old newlywed in Portland, Oregon, showed up on the cover of People Magazine because after being diagnosed with terminal cancer back in April she’d decided to take a lethal dose of barbiturates this November and die painlessly, surrounded by her loved ones.
Second, the book “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande, M.D., was published, and reviewers expressed the hope that it would re-open the dialogue on assisted suicide that was opened nearly a quarter-century ago by another physician, Jacob (Jack) Kevorkian, M.D.
And third, I watched my remarkable and much-loved brother die from lung cancer that had spread to his brain and liver. He never complained, but his death was a difficult and painful process, despite Hospice, pain medications, a deeply caring doctor, and the help of loved ones — a death that most of us would never let a family pet endure. But a family member? Well, that’s different. But why is it different?
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