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Euthanasia Essay: The Hemlock Society and Assisted Suicide

Hemlock Society, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Dori Zook, Hemlock Society public relations director, claims that Hemlock supports legalization of physician- assisted death only in cases of terminal illness. And Hemlock’s website asserts that the Society favors physician-assisted suicide strictly for someone “who is already in the dying process.” But there is a glaring discrepancy between this official stance and what prominent members of Hemlock have said and done.

For example, there is this little gem from Hemlock co-founder Derek Humphry’s book, Final Exit:

“What can those of us who sympathize with a justified suicide by a handicapped person do to help? When we have statutes on the books permitting lawful physician aid-in-dying for the terminally ill, I believe that along with this reform there will come a more tolerant attitude to the other exceptional cases.”

Or take the actions of Hemlock leaders in the case of Elizabeth Bouvia. Writing about the Bouvia case, Humphrey expressed Hemlock’s support of the right to voluntary euthanasia for “a person terminally ill, or severely handicapped and deteriorating….” Hemlock Quarterly 14 (1984). But Ms Bouvia was not “deteriorating.” Cerebral palsy is not degenerative. The open-ended term “deteriorating” can be made to mean almost anything in order to justify a disabled person’s suicide. Bouvia’s lawyers, led by Richard Scott, another co-founder of Hemlock, distorted the nature of her disability, likening her to a terminal patient. “Were Plaintiff Bouvia an 84-year-old woman whose life was prolonged solely by various tubes and numerous machines,” they argued in the Riverside Superior Court, “and she sought to end such an existence, it is doubtf…

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…rejudice against people with disabilities, they must publicly denounce Jack Kevorkian’s bigotry.

The statements and actions noted above are neither stray, nor taken out of context. RTD leaders, time after time, have demonstrated the same willingness to promote this final “solution” to the problems of people with disabilities. Taken together, these words and deeds mark a clear and consistent pattern of promoting assisted suicide for people with disabilities.

Why, then do RTD leaders now claim to advocate a narrower application of assisted suicide? Perhaps they tailor their message depending on the immediate political climate and who they think is listening. For the benefit of all of us who are listening, we call on Hemlock, its leaders, and allies to come forward with boldness and honesty to clearly state their complete agenda.

Shelley and the Quest for Knowledge

Shelley and the Quest for Knowledge

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was the daughter of the radical feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the political philosopher, William Godwin, and the wife of the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Through these familial affiliations, she was also acquainted with Lord Byron, Samuel T. Coleridge, and other literary figures such as Charles and Mary Lamb. Surrounded by such influential literary and political figures of the Romantic Age, it is not surprising that as an adolescent, at the age of 19, she wrote Frankenstein. Though critically a failure, (British Critic,1818 and Monthly Review, 1818) the novel has never been out of print and has been translated into numerous languages. What is surprising, however, is the enormous body of knowledge contained in the novel. The novel contains references to the fields of literature, poetry, science, education, politics, history, and mythology. How did such a young girl, living a life considered morally objectionable to society and harassed by family and financial burdens, acquire such a vast amount of knowledge in all fields of study that encompassed the important issues of her day? Through examination of biographical information and Mary Shelley’s journal entries, we will be able to answer this question. Following, I also plan to highlight Mary Shelley’s knowledge of literature with primary emphasis on the works studied by the monster in relation to his origins as well as Mary Shelley’s.

Mary Shelley was born with notoriety simply by being named Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her parents were well known and somewhat suspect individuals due to their radical political beliefs and writings, such as Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women and Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning the Nature of Political Justice. Mary Shelley’s mother died from complications shortly after giving birth to Mary. The infamy of her existence was heightened by her father’s subsequent publication of Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Women. In this work, William Godwin described many aspects of Mary Wollstonecraft’s existence in great detail such as; her relationship with an American and subsequent birth of an illegitimate daughter, her suicide attempts, and the fact that she was already pregnant with Mary when William Godwin married her. To our late 20th Century sensibilities we may not approve of these behaviors but we certainly don’t consider then shocking or extraordinary. The above mentioned events, however, occurred in the late 1700’s and were not morally acceptable, were abhorrent to the conventions of society, and were certainly not to be discussed or published in a memoir.

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