Showing 21 - 30 of 98 annotations tagged with the keyword "Euthanasia"

Summary:

This is a collection of Elizabeth Layton's work, organized chronologically from 1977-1991. Contents include a biography and epilogue by a 27-year-old reporter (Don Lampert) who discovered, promoted, and became a dear friend of "a depressed grandmother with a handful of drawings under the bed."

Layton discovered contour drawing when she was age 68 and claims to have drawn herself out of mental illness. Her subject matter is self-portraiture, marriage, aging, depression, grandmothering, dieting, and political commentary (nuclear holocaust, capital punishment, mythology and hospital death).

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) lives in the Sun City retirement community in Arizona with Doris, his companion of 20 years. When Doris dies, her children sell their home and Lenny's son and daughter, both in their late 30's, become responsible for his care. Wendy (Laura Linney) is a playwright in New York City. Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater professor in Buffalo. Niether has seen Lenny for many years. He had been an abusive and violent father. The mother is absent, apparently having abandoned the family when the children were young. Both Wendy and Jon seem lost. Wendy is having an unsatisfying affair with a married man and Jon's partner, Kasia, is about to return to Poland because her visa has expired and he is not ready to marry her. Reaquainting themselves with their father forces them to confront the danger of letting unhappy childhood haunt them, and makes them recognize their difficulties being adult (they have Peter Pan names).

Lenny has dementia, probably Parkinson's. Wendy and Jon find him in restraints in a hospital bed. He is hostile from the outset. They take him from the bright light in Arizona to dark sleet in upstate New York, and they put him in a nursing home. Wendy stays with Jon as their father "settles in." She feels guilty but does all the wrong things in trying to make up, while Jon is pragmatic and resentful. Brother and sister get to know each other better. As they bicker, their father seems to watch from a distance with an opacity that is also a kind of dignity. His condition deteriorates and he dies in the nursing home. Wendy returns to New York.

Six months later, Wendy's play about their childhood ("Wake Me up when it's Over") is being produced in New York, and Jon is on his way to give a conference paper ("No Laughing Matter: Dark Comedy in the Plays of Brecht") in Poland where he plans to be reunited with Kasia.

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Silvie's Life

Rogoff, Marianne

Last Updated: Apr-01-2008
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This book chronicles a tortured parenthood during the birth and brief life of a severely brain-damaged female infant, Silvie. Doctors predict that the child will live only a few days but instead she survives for seven months. The story is told in first person by the mother, beginning with her arduous labor during a home delivery in the presence of an experienced midwife and the family physician. The baby does not cry when she is born and turns blue even with oxygen that the doctor administers. An ambulance is summoned; "a bigger, better oxygen machine" restores the baby's color and she is brought to a hospital neonatal intensive care unit where she is artificially ventilated and fed.

In the hospital Silvie "fails" all the tests of normalcy. The doctors recommend removing artificial ventilation. "I feared, even more than I feared her death I think (and harder to admit), that they would remove the oxygen pump and the baby would live on and on and never be able to do anything at all" (14). Yet when the child does in fact breathe independently, "I took the fact that she could sustain her own breathing to mean that the baby wanted to live. It was all right to love her" (15). A few days later, however, the medical team concludes that there is nothing further they can do for the baby, that the parents should take the child home, where she will likely die within a couple of days. Upon being prodded, one physician suggests the parents give her an overdose of phenobarbital, which she is receiving for continual epileptic seizures.

At home, the parents feed Silvie by tube, medicate her, change her diapers, hold her, and learn from a friend how to swaddle her. The child never cries, does not focus her eyes on anything, rarely responds to sound or touch, and gains no weight. Whatever random responsiveness there seems to be gives the author a sense of motherhood: "I was able to survive because of my faith in these intermittent chance meetings, believing that Silvie did know when I was here and that I was holding her close in a way that meant love" (37). The parents brace themselves for Silvie's death. The husband's sister visits and councils them to actively put an end to Silvie's life, which they refuse to do. But they do not plan to take extra measures (CPR) if Silvie seems to be dying at home and when they articulate this to a social worker whom they consult to obtain respite care, it becomes clear that she would report them to Child Protective Services.

The husband quits his job as a residential counselor of emotionally disturbed teenagers to do part-time carpentry work -- he is too preoccupied to care about other people's problems. When a friend accidentally breaks the phenobarbital bottle, the parents together with the family physician decide to see how Silvie will get along without the drug. To their amazement, the baby appears slightly more alert and is able to suck from a bottle -- no more feeding tube required. But the husband reminds his wife, "The doctors warned us she might do this. This is the one and only thing she can ever learn. They said when this happened to other parents they started to believe that the baby was getting better" (59).

The parents live in limbo, attempt to live a "normal" life. When Silvie starts to lose weight at age 4 months, the doctor advises to resume tube feeding; they don't see the point, but when hospital physicians use the word, "murder," and threaten to "take over" Silvie's care, the parents relent. The baby lives but "it was the sameness of Silvie that drove you crazy . . . She slept and woke, but was awake that much different? She did not change, she did not change. Her sameness was a stone I wore, an emblem of failure, failed life" (96).

The final act for Silvie begins when the author's mother-in-law is dying of cancer in New York and a decision is made to leave the baby at home in California for several days in the care of a retired nurse. The nurse has been shown how to do the tube feeding, but while the parents are in New York she experiments with spoon feeding, then discontinues tube feeding for three days before the parents return. The parents see that Silvie has deteriorated in their absence and resume tube feeding. For the remaining couple of months the parents wait, investigate institutionalizing Silvie, and finally determine that "the way we loved Silvie meant we loved her enough to let her die" at home, with "a certain amount of fluid and nourishment for comfort, but a gradual withdrawal of excessive food. Replaced with a lot of touching and holding, stroking and whispering" (122). Silvie dies and the author is four months pregnant with the baby she and her husband have decided not to abort.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Fifty-something Canadian professor of history and lifelong womanizer Rémy (Rémy Girard) lies in an overcrowded hospital with a fatal illness. Family and friends gather, including Rémy’s estranged son Sébastian (a wealthy financier played by Stéphane Rousseau) from overseas, and Rémy’s ex-wife (Dorothée Berryman) and several previous romantic partners. Rémy and Sébastian fight painfully about Rémy’s philandering, but after a plea from his mother Sébastian decides to make things better for his father, even if they have not been reconciled.

This he does in many ways, most of which involve spending lots of money and many of which are highly irregular or illegal. For example, he arranges to have his father taken into the U.S. for an expensive PET scan that would have required six months’ wait to have free in Canada. And he arranges through Nathalie (Marie-Josée Croze), a childhood friend who is now a heroin addict, to provide a regular supply of heroin to control his father’s pain, which the hospital apparently is not able to do with morphine.

These and other extraordinary measures work for Rémy, and the process of caregiving brings Sébastian and his father closer. (Rémy’s only problem seems to be the feeling that his life has been wasted because he has not left his mark--and he gets help with that, paradoxically, through several conversations with Nathalie.) For his last few days, Rémy and ensemble move to a friend’s lakeside cabin, where the conversation is witty, intellectual, and sexually frank, and the mood upbeat and conciliatory.

In the face of Rémy’s imminent demise, all is forgiven, and others seem to gain insight about their lives. Rémy’s last act is peacefully nodding to a sorrowful Nathalie to begin the series of heroin injections that will end his life. In a final dig at the establishment, the heroin is administered through an IV provided on the sly by a hospital nurse.

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Summary:

In this film based on a true story, Ramón Sampedro (Javier Barden), a young fisherman from the northwest coast of Spain, is injured in a diving accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down and completely dependent for his care on his older brother and his sister-in-law, who make numerous sacrifices in order to care for him. Twenty-seven years later, in his 50's, Ramón is weary of his life, which he feels is without dignity, and he tries to get legal permission to end it.

His brother is adamantly opposed to euthanasia, but Ramón is comforted and aided in his quest by two women who are drawn into his circle. Julia (Bélen Rueda), a lawyer suffering from a degenerative disease, begins to design a legal case for Ramón but soon falls in love with him (although she seems happily married), and he with her. In a particularly moving scene, Ramón-who of course cannot move--tells Julia that her smell is the beginning of his erotic fantasies about her.

Julia helps him edit and publish a book of his poetry, but then, having agreed to a joint suicide, she mysteriously backs out. Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a young single mother who works in a fish-packing factory and who has had a hard life, also falls in love with Ramón. For some time she tries to change his mind, arguing that his example has inspired her and saved her from a life of despair. Ramón challenges her: "The person who truly loves me will be the one who helps me [commit suicide]."

When Ramón's legal appeal (for the same rights the nondisabled have to end their lives) is lost on a technicality, he seems to have nowhere to turn, but Rosa, converted by her love for Ramón, finally agrees to help him die. He achieves his goal in a videotaped end in which he argues that what he is doing is his right and that no others should be blamed or prosecuted for it, sips poison through a straw, and dies.

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The Fruit of the Tree

Wharton, Edith

Last Updated: Oct-29-2007
Annotated by:
Garden, Rebecca

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel opens with a young surgical nurse, Justine Brent, nursing a mill worker whose arm has been mangled by a carding machine. She soon meets John Amherst, the mill’s assistant manager who works passionately to reform the dangerous conditions at the mill and to improve the living conditions of the workers. Amherst recognizes Justine’s intelligence and sympathy, but he quickly forgets about her when he meets and falls in love with the new mill owner, Bessy Langhope.

The narrative skips ahead three years. John Amherst has learned that his now-wife Bessy has no real interest in his plan to reform the mill, although she initially appeared to be moved by the workers’ misery. In fact, her insistence on luxury, which is funded by the profit from the mills, thwarts his desire to use her controlling interest to make significant changes. The couple encounters Justine, who knew Bessy in school. When the somewhat sickly Bessy invites her to be a private nurse to herself and her stepdaughter, Justine, who is exhausted from “difficult cases,” accepts. Justine attempts to shore up John and Bessy’s increasingly troubled marriage without success. When John is abroad, Bessy has an accident while riding her horse. Paralyzed, in constant pain, and slowly dying, Bessy is attended by a physician who advances his career with the technological feat of keeping Bessy alive, ostensibly until her husband and her father arrive to say their goodbyes. When Bessy begs Justine to let her die, Justine secretly gives her a fatal dose of morphine, an act that the physician suspects.

The narrative skips ahead again to over a year later when Amherst, who has inherited the mills from Bessy, invites her family to celebrate the opening of an emergency hospital he has built in the mill town. Justine, who had stayed on after Bessy’s death as her stepdaughter’s nurse, and Amherst become reacquainted. Their shared social and intellectual interests develop into love, and they marry. The physician who had cared for Bessy and who had, earlier, asked Justine to marry him, had developed an addiction, one that had begun while he was treating Bessy. Beginning to sink into financial ruin, he blackmails Justine. Eventually, Amherst finds out that Justine killed Bessie with morphine and, horrified, rejects her.

Justine confesses her act to Bessy’s father and negotiates a deal: She will remove herself from their lives if he allows Amherst to continue his work at the mills. Bessy’s father accepts the deal, and Justine disappears for many months until Bessy’s daughter becomes ill and begs to be reunited with Justine. A family friend explains to Amherst Justine’s arrangement to protect him and convinces him that she has suffered suitable penance. Justine is reunited with Amherst when he celebrates the opening of a gymnasium for the mill workers, a project he credits Bessy with having designed. Justine, who knows that Bessy had in fact designed the gymnasium for her private estate, a project that would have drained the funds for improving the mills, keeps silent and subverts her knowledge to her husband’s perception of the facts.

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Memoirs of Hadrian

Yourcenar, Marguerite

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Memoirs of Hadrian is a historical novel in the form of a long letter written by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his young friend and eventual successor, Marcus Aurelius. Alas, Hadrian is "growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart." The Emperor begins by describing his recent visit with his physician Hermogenes, who "was alarmed, in spite of himself, at the rapid progress of the disease" (3). In light of his physical deterioration, Hadrian begins to reflect on his life and work, and to share his wisdom with his young correspondent.

Hadrian tells of his early life as the protégé of the Emperor Trajan, his military and political victories, and his eventual adoption by Trajan, a move that guaranteed the succession when his adoptive father died. While Trajan, whose victories brought the Roman Empire to its greatest size, was a military man to the core, Hadrian considers himself essentially peace loving--his personal life devoted to simplicity and harmony; and his public life to prosperity and justice. Nonetheless, he has always recognized that, in order to govern effectively, ruthless action is sometimes required.

Hadrian's marriage to the Empress Sabina was simply a matter of convenience. The love of his life was a beautiful young man named Antinous. The two men were deeply committed to one another, but at the same time the middle-aged emperor had "a certain dread of bondage" ( 177) that kept him from fully giving himself to Antinous with the abandon of youth. They were visiting Alexandria when the despondent Antinous committed suicide in a way that mimicked a religious ritual, essentially sacrificing himself to the deified Emperor.

Hadrian was crushed with grief and descended into a long period of depression. However, he eventually overcame his depression through his love of literature and ideas, as well as his sense of duty to the Empire (no SSRIs being available at the time), although not before attempting to enlist his physician in assisted suicide. Unable to refuse his emperor's request, the physician himself commits suicide rather than violating his Hippocratic Oath.

Hadrian's final military engagements involve crushing Jewish insurgents in Palestine, completing the destruction of Jerusalem, and founding a new Roman city on its site. The aged Emperor reflects frequently on his tolerance for all religions, except for politically disruptive fanatics like the followers of a Jewish prophet called Christ. As to the Jews in Palestine, he cannot understand why they continue to engage in self-destructive rebellion, most recently with Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva as their leaders.

In his final years Hadrian adopts Lucius, one of his former lovers (in this account), as his son and heir, but Lucius soon dies, presumably from tuberculosis. Eventually, the Emperor adopts Antinous Pius as his heir and further arranges for Marcus Aurelius to succeed Antinous Pius. At the end of his letter, Hadrian writes, "I could now return to Tibur, going back to that retreat which is called illness, to experiment with my suffering, to taste fully what delights are left to me, and to resume in peace my interrupted dialogue with a shade." [i.e. Antinous, his lost love (271)].

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Dax's Case

Burton, Keith

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

In the fall of 1979, Keith Burton, a free-lance journalist, saw the videotape 0105 in a bioethics seminar at Southern Methodist University (see annotation in this database). The structural centerpiece of this 1974 documentary is the interview of a burn patient, Donald "Dax" Cowart, by psychiatrist Dr. Robert B. White at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. White had been called in to determine the patient’s competency because of his persistent requests to end the painful treatments, to go home, and to die.

Similar to most viewers of Please Let Me Die, Burton was intrigued by the unanswered questions and the uncertain outcome of the case and ultimately contacted Dax Cowart and his mother, Ada Cowart. Burton invited their collaboration on a follow-up videotape to Please Let Me Die, with the intention of providing "a living record of this man’s struggle for release from pain and despair." [see Keith Burton, "A Chronicle: Dax’s Case As It Happened." In Dax’s Case: Essays In Medical Ethics And Human Meaning, ed. Lonnie D. Kliever. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press) 1989: 1].

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The Promise

Olds, Sharon

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A fierce, powerful poem in which sexual and emotional intimacy between a couple reach their ultimate expression in the renewal of a promise "to kill each other", should one or the other become incapacitated. The narrator addresses her (his?) partner directly as "you"; so entwined are these two ("the halves of a single creature") that the reader isn’t certain whether the narrator is a man or a woman. The juxtaposition of the romantic restaurant setting, the deeply intimate thoughts, and the grim subject under discussion is striking: " . . . drinking Fume’ . . . we are taking on earth, we are part soil already . . . and always . . . we are also in our bed, fitted naked closely . . . ." One of the pair is afraid that the other won’t keep the promise, but "you don’t know me if you think I will not kill you."

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Down from Troy

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-05-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Richard Selzer’s memoir is subtitled “A Doctor Comes of Age.” The book is structured around childhood memories, interspersed with stories from more recent times. Selzer’s father, a general practitioner in Troy, New York, serves as the focal point for most of his early memories--a commanding figure of warmth and goodness in his son’s life: “If I have failed to describe father… it is because none of his features did him justice. I should have had to mention wings in order to do that.” (p. 152)

While his father brought science into Selzer’s life, his mother represented the world of art. She was an amateur singer with a “small pure soprano voice” (p. 15), as well as being the doctor’s wife. After the doctor’s death from a massive heart attack when Selzer was 12 years old, his mother had numerous suitors, at least some of whom she eventually married. When he went to college, she began a life-long practice of writing her younger son (Selzer has an older brother William) weekly letters, including such advice as “Rise and flee the reeling faun,” “You do not take enough chances” and “You must learn to be absurd.” (p.227)

Toward the end of Down from Troy, Selzer writes of his parents, “Of all the satisfactions of my life, the greatest is that I have at last fulfilled each of their ambitions.” (p. 251) This is in reference to his having practiced both surgery and writing. He goes on to enumerate the many unexpected similarities between the two professions. The book ends with a narrative that brings together narrative and medicine, the story of a retired surgeon who reaches out to help a young man dying of AIDS.

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