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June 06, 2011 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-06

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41

Monday, June 6, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
C .hi W C1ta t .at-I

The ivory bubble

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

BETHANY BIRON
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MARK BURNS
MANAGING EDITOR

TEDDY PAPES
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All othersigned articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Learning from Dr. Death
Parsing Kevorkian's message from his ego
ack Kevorkian, widely known for his support for eutha-
nasia, died painlessly from a thrombosis on June 3. In the
early '90s,. Kevorkian, a graduate from the University's
Medical School, thrust the right-to-die issue into the American
mainstream, and in the following years there were legislative
attempts both to block and legalize euthanasia. The complex
moral and legal intricacies of this issue were somewhat lost
with Kevorkian's theatrics, but that should not damage the merit
of his position - an autonomous individual, if they so choose,
should be allowed to end their suffering through death.

The Ivory Tower of the Univer-
sity canfeel like a dungeon at times.
It's only when you notice that all of
your friends are
within five years
of your age,
professors are
the only people
outside of that
bracket you've
interacted with
recently, and ANNA
you don't even CLEMENTS
remember how
to start a conver-
sation with someone who doesn't
know what a blue book is, that it
becomes clear you've become fully
socialized as a college student.
We're living in a microcosm, where
tragedies iiiclude parties getting
booted before 2 am., and stress
exists on a schedule. This might
be fun for now, but what happens
when we graduate and try to reen-
ter the "real world" only to realize
that it has become alien?
One of the nice things about the
University is that it's integrated
with the Ann Arbor community.
This makes it possible - easy even
- to get involved. We have classes
here such as Project Outreach and
Project Community, which place
students in'volunteer positions in
schools, prisons, hospitals, commu-
nity centers and more. Language
programs also offer opportunities
to connect with the "real world."
Through Proyecto Avance, Latino
Mentoring Association, students
are paired with adults and kids from
Spanish-speaking backgrounds to
work on English language skills and
help with homework, respectively.,
These all can become lasting con-
nections, and because of the rela-
tionships I developed in my Project
Community class, after the semes-
ter ended I returned to volunteer in
my placement location.
Besides coursework and volun-
teering, employment both on and
off-campus connects students with
the city. Students who do outreach
for University programs have the
opportunitytoconnectwith alumni
and prospective students through
phone calls, tours and hosting
events. For instance, Teaching and
Inspiring Environmental Steward-
ship brings visiting groups to the
Dana Building, incorporating tours
of the award-winning sustainabili-
ty center with other environmental
education activities. Off-campus
jobs can also connect students with
people they wouldn't otherwise
come into contact with. Especially
in smaller businesses with more of

a regular clientele, students can get
to know individuals outside of stu- 4
dent groups.
Why are interactions like this
important? Social theorists and
professionals can tell you: Know-
ing people means getting ahead.
Your volunteer coordinator might
recommend you for a job or your
client may drop information on off-
campus opportunities. Learning
the proper etiquette for conversing
with different people is important.
After attending an institution as
diverse as the University, it should
be expected that one would know
how to interact with people from a
wide range of social identities, not
just one's own. That sort of flex-
ibility is crucial to expanding per-
sonal opportunities.

Knowing
people means
getting ahead.

0

At the outset of Kevorkian's
radical pursuits, there were no
parameters to guide a physician
or regulate the death of a ter-
minal patient. Michigan had no
laws against physician-assisted
suicide, so when he was charged
with the murder of Janet Adkins,
he was found innocent, as there
was no specific law that he vio-
lated. He provided the termi-
nally ill Alzheimer's patient with
a machine that would deliver a
lethal dose of potassium chloride
if she desired it, and this was the
way she ended her life. It wasn't
until the enfant terrible killed a
patient himself that he was final-
ly sent to prison for murder.
The morality, medical appro-
priateness and legality of these
issues got lost in the wake of
Kevorkian's histrionics. Rath-
er than focusing on the issues
surrounding assisted suicide,
euthanasia became intimately
associated with "Dr. Death" and
its legitimacy waned. Rather
than seeking a forum to deter-

mine euthanasia's regulation,
Kevorkian continued to assist
suicides solely based on his and
his patients' views. Intuitively,
this may seem sufficient, but
these are precarious evaluations
especially when 50 percent of
the decision is coming from a
terminally ill patient.
Part of legalizing physician-
assisted suicide must include
a comprehensive and rigor-
ous review process that both
the patient and doctor must go
through before the treatment is
provided. Oregon, where eutha-
nasia is legal, requires the per-
mission of two doctors and a
terminal diagnosis predicting
death in fewer than six months,
yet these regulations are insuf-
ficient. At a minimum, there
should be a panel of medical pro-
fessionals that review euthanasia
requests. The patient should also
undergo a psychiatric evaluation
to determine his or her mental
health. If the patient is termi-
nally ill and mentally stable, a

medical professional trained for
euthanasia should provide the
means to perform such a task.
This issue has massive impli-
cations and asks humanity to
challenge very fundamental con-
cepts of life. But euthanasia's vol-
atile nature should not prevent it
from being explored and evalu-
ated. The fear of discussing a
macabre topic as well as the inev-
itable public backlash should not
prevent physicians from provid-
ing individuals a peaceful alter-
native to an agonizing death.
The complex nature of physi-
cian-assisted suicide requires
transparent and thorough over-
sight for death requests made by
patients. Kevorkian was brave
to foray into this area, but his
myopia damaged both his legiti-
macy and more importantly,
the legitimacy of his cause. His
actions show how this practice
needs more oversight, but also
how the medical paradigm must
be expanded for those unable to
meet an end as peaceful as his.

The ivory tower analogy for col-
lege makes methink about Rapun-
zel, trapped in a tower with no
escape besides her freakishly long
hair. The story has one of those not-
very-politically-correct endings
where she waits helplessly until she
is rescued by a prince. I don't really
know how he fits into this whole
metaphor, but my hunch is this: If in
college I surround myself with only
people like me, then I will build
up a sort of helplessness that will
separate me from accessing oppor-
tunities. And there is no hope of a
social-capital-superman to rescue
me by introducing me to everyone
I'll need to know post-grad.
Getting acquainted with people
outside of your own group can pro-
vide an avenue for learning about
life, but it can also make post-col-
lege culture shock less dramatic.
Between jobs, volunteering and
just varying venues for hanging
out, there are a plethora of places to
meet people who don't look like you,
talk like you or share your lifestyle.
It might not be comfortable at first,
but going to the University without
getting to know Ann Arbor is like
getting a sandwich with only the
lettuce - it serves its function, but
it's far from reaching its full poten-
tial in flavor and variety.
Anna Clements can be reached
at asiobhan@umich.edu.

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