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Essay title: Euthanasia

Sue Weaver died in her home at the age of 52. Sue was sick much of her life. She had an eye condition which caused her eyesight to grow progressively worse throughout her life. In her childhood, she suffered through several diseases, including eczema, rheumatic fever, meningitis, and a malignant tumor on her forehead which caused her to undergo reconstructive surgery.

In 1980, at age 39, Sue was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease which is caused by hard patches of tissue on the brain or spinal chord and results in partial or total paralysis. Many times, the disease is accompanied by muscle twitches or jerks as well. By 1984, Sue was no longer able to walk without aid. Later, she had to be carried or remain confined to a wheelchair.

Her failing health was complicated by the fact that her husband was 30 years her senior. Thus, by the time the disease paralyzed Sue, her husband was more than 70 years old. On several occasions, her husband, Les, fell with her while trying to assist her in bathing or using the restroom. Many times, the two would be unable to rise from their fallen condition without calling on their son to help them. Sue later became incontinent and required a catheter.

The physical and emotional struggle finally led Sue to suicide. In 1992, she told her sister Joanne about her desire and asked for Joanne to contact Dr. Jack Kevorkian for her. Joanne agreed. Dr. Kevorkian met with Sue and her family. Over a period of more than 2 months, Dr. Kevorkian interviewed Sue, her sisters, Les, and others associated with Sue. Though he felt at first that Sue was not “ready,” Dr. Kevorkian finally decided that Sue should be aided in her attempt to kill herself.

Therefore, Dr. Kevorkian created a device which would aid Sue in her efforts. The device was a canister which released carbon monoxide through a mask fitted over Sue's nose and mouth. Sue was able to release the carbon monoxide from the canister because Dr. Kevorkian specially designed a lever which Sue could pull with her hand. (Sue had only one hand which she could control well enough to perform such a function.)

May 15, 1993, was established as the time for her to die. The machine was brought into her bedroom. Her family was gathered. She pulled the lever. Within two minutes, her breathing deepened. In four minutes, her complexion turned to a deep red. Her eyes widened. She fell unconscious. Her eyes closed. Her breathing diminished to final gasps. Then, she died at 10:10 AM.

"It couldn't have been more peaceful," says Mary (Sue's sister). "Here was Sue, in her own bedroom, it was a beautiful sunny day, the birds were chirping outside, the back door was open, she had flowered sheets on her bed.

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