The Corner

Death Doctor to Charge $2000 for Suicide Prescription

Lonny Shavelson is–or was–a part time emergency room physician and photo journalist.

Now, he’s going to be a death doctor for pay. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

Berkeley physician Lonny Shavelson said he thinks California is ready. He opened a practice to see patients who want the prescription and are willing to pay $2,000 for him to come to their home for an evaluation and assist them throughout the process.

This means he will be writing lethal prescriptions for patients whose illnesses fall outside his area of certified specialty. Par for the assisted suicide course.

But that doesn’t even begin to tell the complete tale about Shavelson and his morals.

You see, he once witnessed what can only be described as a murder of a disabled man by a Hemlock Society suicide assister–and did nothing about it–as he reported beginning at page 92 in his book, A Chosen Death.

Here is my description of Shavelson’s actions from Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die, with the quotes from Shavelson’s book put in italics:

Shavelson, described on the book jacket as an emergency-room physician and a photojournalist, writes about five assisted suicides he observed or participated in during the book’s preparation. One case, that of “Gene,” stands out in its heartlessness and brutality.

As depicted by Shavelson, Gene is a depressed, lonely widower with a pronounced alcohol problem. Twice previously he has tried to commit suicide. The first attempt occurred before he had two strokes that left him moderately impaired—but definitely not terminally ill.

Gene wants to end it all. He contacts an undisclosed chapter of the Hemlock Society and asks its head, a woman given the pseudonym “Sarah,” to assist in his death. According to Shavelson, Sarah has experience in this dark business, having previously assisted a close friend to commit suicide. Sarah found her first killing experience tremendously satisfying and powerful, “the most intimate experience you can share with a person. . . . More than sex. More than birth . . . more than anything,” including being present for “the deliveries of my four grandchildren.”…

Shavelson watches as Sarah mixes Gene a poisonous brew and gives it to him, saying, “O.K., toots, here you go,” as if she were handing him a beer. Gene drinks the liquid and begins to fall asleep, with Sarah holding his head on her lap.

As he begins to snore, Sarah places a plastic bag over his head and begins to croon, “See the light. Go to the light.” (Sarah apparently had seen the movie Poltergeist once too often.)

But then, suddenly, faced with the prospect of immediate death, Gene changes his mind. He screams out ”I’m cold!” and tries to rip the bag off his face.

But Sarah won’t allow it. From Shavelson’s account:

“His good band flew up to tear off the plastic bag. Sarah’s band caught Gene’s wrist and held it. His body thrust upwards. She pulled his arm away and lay across Gene’s shoulders. Sarah rocked back and forth, pinning him down, her fingers twisting the bag to seal it tight at his neck as she repeated, ‘the light, Gene, go toward the light.’ Gene’s body pushed against Sarah’s. Then he stopped moving.”

If Shavelson’s depiction of the event is accurate, there is a word that describes what happened to Gene, and that word is murder.

Here’s how the now in business death doctor reacted:

The right, proper, ethical, and humane thing for Shavelson to do as he watched Sarah asphyxiate Gene would have been to knock Sarah off the helpless man and then quickly dial 911 for an ambulance and the police.

But Shavelson did not do anything…as he watched the Sarah-Gene tableau, just before the old man tried to rip the bag off his face:

Stop, Sarah” raced through my mind. For whose sake, I thought—Gene’s, so intent on killing himself? The weight of unanswered questions kept me glued to my corner. Was this a suicide, Gene’s right finally to succeed and die? Or was this a needless death encouraged by Sarah’s desire to act? Had Gene’s decision to have me there, to tell me his story, given me the right to stop what was happening—or, equally powerful, the responsibility not to interfere? Or was I obliged by my very presence as a fellow human being, to jump up and stop the craziness? Was it craziness?”

Suddenly, Sarah is holding Gene down, preventing him from tearing off the plastic bag.

And now, this man who watched as a helpless disabled man was asphyxiated against his will, receives a positive boost in the San Francisco Chronicle–the reporter surely unaware of his “Gene” moral turpitudefor going into business as a suicide assister.

Assisted suicide corrupts everything it touches.

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