Thank you for the superb obituary for Jack Kevorkian [Metro, June 4]. I preached my first sermon on Dr. Kevorkian’s theme in March 1975, long before he came into public view. It was titled “The Right to Die.” My congregation in Northern Virginia was unfazed, and some began to discuss rights, “death with dignity” and the then-current case of Karen Ann Quinlan, in a coma for years, who became the focal point of a conflict involving her parents, societal mores and hospital regulations. After years of expensive litigation and parental anguish, the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with the parents in their quest for doctors to remove life support. Living wills began to appear, and the debate was on.
Recently I was invited to speak at a retirement community on “faithful dying.” Toward the end of my presentation, one man asked me what I thought about Dr. Kevorkian. Not wishing to overstay my time limit, I kept it simple: “I know he has the nickname ‘Dr. Death,’ but I call him ‘Dr. Compassion.’ ” The senior citizen sighed and said, “I was hoping you’d say something like that.”
I am not worthy to address the complexities faced by medical practitioners — God bless them all! — but consider one of the Hippocratic Oath’s first charges: “That into whatsoever house you shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick to the utmost of your power.” When physical healing is not possible, is not what Dr. Kevorkian sought for his patients the higher good?
Edward Morgan III, Williamsburg
The writer, a retired Episcopal priest, is a founder of the Great Endings (Virginia) chapter of Final Exit Network.