Dying with Dignity

October 24, 2014

My old friend, Jack Kevorkian, wanted nothing more than to give people the right not to suffer from debilitating diseases and die in dignity.

Today, Jack would be happy to see that five states, including Washington and Oregon, have made it possible for people to do just that.

Brittany Maynard is among those benefitting from Oregon’s law.

She is 29 and she is dying from a terrible brain tumor that will soon take her life. Her death will be slow and frightful as the tumor inside her brain continues to grow.

When she found out how awful the transition from life to death would be, she opted to control her own ending. Even if, in the end, she doesn’t do it, she feels better having the choice. She now plans to die two days after her husband’s birthday on Nov. 1.

“There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal,” said Maynard in an interview with People Magazine.

In her last month of life Maynard is choosing to advocate for those who also want to die with dignity. She is not saying anything new – Jack and I had the same argument nearly 20 years ago. Call it what you will, but having the right to die is a choice that people should be permitted, not the government! I know that. He knew that. And so does Brittany.

Thankfully Brittany was able to move to Oregon with her family in order to make her transition less painful, but she is concerned that others don’t have the resources to take similar action. Only five states have laws on the books that make it possible for people to die with dignity, which leaves 45 states without options for people like Brittany.

Jack and I wanted everyone to have the option to decide how much they had to suffer – not the government.

It’s not suicide, it’s basic human dignity and a God-given right.

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Medical Malpractice and Cerebral Palsy

October 24, 2014

Cerebral palsy is an often misunderstood medical term which refers to a devastating and permanent disorder that causes physical disabilities. Cerebral palsy can be the result of a damaged motor control center in the brain. It can occur before, during or quickly after birth. The motor control center in the brain is responsible for a person’s movement. If it is damaged, it can leave a person unable to walk or speak while her cognitive ability remains almost fully intact.

If other areas of a baby’s brain are damaged, the damage can have a severe impact on intellectual function.

When cerebral palsy occurs at birth it is often the result of the negligence of the doctor or hospital that delivered the newborn. The negligence can be as simple as the doctor not ordering a caesarian section, or a failure to notice and treat fetal distress.

When this occurs it is malpractice, not simple error.

A newborn needing oxygen after birth, needing an MRI or presenting signs of jaundice that don’t resolve quickly after birth; may all be signs of cerebral palsy. In some cases there may be no signs at all after birth and appear weeks or months later.

Attorneys such as myself are often called “ambulance chasers.” It is said that we seek out hospitals, doctors and nurses and exploit them for making “minor” mistakes. Why can’t we accept that medical professionals are human, too? Well, I do. People expect me to be responsible for my mistakes, we expect people to be held accountable, don’t we?

I don’t sue for minor mistakes. I sue for big errors that ruin people’s lives.

In 2011 we won a $114.5 million dollar verdict for a 15-year-old girl who will never be able to speak or walk because of the negligence and trauma that occurred at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. If it weren’t for the negligence of her doctors and nurses then she would be graduating from college in 2018 and of starting a career.

She is just one of many victories I sought justice for.  On her behalf, on your behalf, I fight — and I am not afraid to win.