Whose life is it anyway?

The case centres around Ken Harrison’s determination to exercise his right to die rather than live in a state of physical helplessness. As a result of a road accident, Mr Harrison suffered a multitude of injuries, which included a severed spinal cord. The prognosis was bleak – he had limited facial movements and was totally paralysed form the neck downwards. Throughout his time in hospital he maintains, much to the medical profession’s objection, his right to have the choice whether to live or die.

The issues involved in the case are more poignant because of the nature of Ken’s personality. He is described by Dr Emerson as ‘an intelligent, sensitive and articulate man.’ He amazes the doctors with his wit and calm rational decisions. ‘I have never met anyone like Mr Harrison before’, retorted Dr Scott. He argues his right, with power and persuasion, to be discharged form the hospital to die. He insists that it is his right, for he alone knows what is best for him, to chose to ‘die quietly and with as much dignity’ as he can muster and he does ‘not want to go on living with so much effort for so little result.’ Mr Harrison uses his profession, sculpting, as a comparison to his life to try and change Dr Travers’ opinion. He explains that when a customer comes into his studios to buy something, they would want to ask for his ‘professional opinion’, but if they were a mature adult they would ‘reserve the right’ to choose for themselves.

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The case against Ken’s wishes to have treatment removed is put by various members of the medical profession. It is a fact, that all the people in the medical profession take the Hippocratic Oath which means they must do all in their power to preserve life. So, ken has an uphill struggle to persuade them against the ‘forces of the medical bureaucracy.’

Dr Scott does not know how to deal with Ken’s forceful demands, so she states that he is depressed and prescribes the tranquiliser Valium. Ken, ‘who prefers to keep his consciousness clear’ refuses the tranquilisers but the ‘heavy ...

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