Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Doctor Death

Thomas Youk suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He sought the help of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in ending his life. In 1998 Dr. Kevorkian injected Youk with a lethal drug.

A jury found Dr. Kevorkian guilty of second-degree homicide in Youk's death, and he was sent to prison. Last Friday he was released on parole. Dr. Kervorkian suffers from Hepatitis C and will probably die within a year.

For some unfortunate souls, pain and suffering grow so intense that life itself seems like a disease and death the only cure.

Adolf Erman, ed. The Ancient Egyptians: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, tr. Aylward M. Blackman (1927; rpt. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), p. 91:
Death is before me to-day
As when a sick man becometh whole,
As when one walketh abroad after sickness.
Erman (p. 86, n. 1) gives the source as "A Berlin papyrus of the Middle Kingdom ... edited by me in Abh. der Berliner Akademie in 1896."

Aeschylus, fragment 255 Nauck (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
O death, the healer, reject me not, but come! For thou alone art the mediciner of ills incurable, and no pain layeth hold on the dead.

ὦ θάνατε παιάν, μή μ᾽ ἀτιμάσῃς μολεῖν·
μόνος γὰρ εἶ σὺ τῶν ἀνηκέστων κακῶν
ἰατρός, ἄλγος δ᾽ οὐδὲν ἅπτεται νεκροῦ.
Sophocles, Women of Trachis 1206-1209 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Alas once more, what a demand you are making of me, father, to have the guilt of your murder on my hands!
Not I, but to be the healer and only curer of the ills from which I suffer!

οἴμοι μάλ᾽ αὖθις, οἷά μ᾽ ἐκκαλεῖ, πάτερ,
φονέα γενέσθαι καὶ παλαμναῖον σέθεν.
οὐ δῆτ᾽ ἔγωγ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ὧν ἔχω παιώνιον
καὶ μοῦνον ἰατῆρα τῶν ἐμῶν κακῶν.
Sophocles, fragment 698 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
But death is the last healer of sicknesses.

ἀλλ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ὁ θάνατος λοῖσθος ἰατρὸς νόσων.
Euripides, Children of Heracles 595-596:
For death is thought to be the greatest cure of evils.

τὸ γὰρ θανεῖν / κακῶν μέγιστον φάρμακον νομίζεται.
Euripides, Hippolytus 1373:
And may death the healer come to me.

καί μοι θάνατος παιὰν ἔλθοι.
Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 27.9 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler):
Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills.

τί οὖν ἄν τις ἔτι λέγοι περὶ τῶν νέων͵ ὁπότε οἱ τηλικοῦτοι φιλόζωοί εἰσιν͵ οὓς ἐχρῆν διώκειν τὸν θάνατον ὡς τῶν ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ κακῶν φάρμακον.
Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. 2, Sec. 3, Memb. 5:
But a happy death will make an end of all our woes and miseries; omnibus una meis certa medela malis [it is the one sure remedy for all my troubles].
Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part 2, § 9:
I boast nothing, but plainly say, we all labour against our own cure; for death is the cure of all diseases.
Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 128:
Living is an ailment which is relieved every sixteen hours by sleep. A palliative. Death is the cure.

Vivre est une maladie dont le sommeil nous soulage toutes les seize heures; c'est un palliatif: la mort est le remède.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Endicott, Act III:
When Death, the Healer, shall have touched our eyes
With the moist clay of the grave, then shall we see
The truth as we have never beheld it.

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