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Timothy Quill Remembered

By Judie Brown

Who, you may wonder, is Timothy Quill? Quill achieved his moment in the sun when the Vacco v. Quill case arrived at the Supreme Court. And one could easily say that Quill was literally the point of the spear in that case.

Quill is a proponent of euthanasia. While his specialty is listed as palliative care, the motive behind that practice was to end the lives of the suffering, not to provide relief in their hour of need. In an abstract for a medical journal article he wrote, we find this disturbing comment:

A small percentage of terminally ill patients receiving comprehensive care reach a point at which their suffering becomes severe and unacceptable despite unrestrained palliative efforts; some of these patients request that death be hastened. This paper presents terminal sedation and voluntary refusal of hydration and nutrition as potential last resorts that can be used to address the needs of such patients. 

In other words, when patients are suffering and the end is near, dehydrating them and starving them to death is appropriate. At one point Quill was involved in promoting voluntarily stopping eating and drinking among patients who were dying, but Nancy Valko, RN, told the truth about it, writing that proponents of euthanasia are similar to a death machine that “rolls on and in many different directions but the goal remains death on demand.”

Like Valko, we agree that apathy is not an option, but neither is ignorance of what it means to actively pursue the death of another no matter what the professionals may suggest. When books are published that involve allegedly practical ways for a seriously ill patient to hasten their death without breaking the law, such individuals are encouraging putting the decision to die in the hands of the patients and their families. Clearly, such ideas smack of evil no matter how well intentioned some may be.

Quill, among others, sees only benefits in such strategies for treatment; in truth, the practice is not healthcare but imposed death.

There is a very short distance between respect for life and callous disregard for life when suffering is involved. Valko wrote,

Political correctness can actually be lethal itself. Unfortunately, the public is given the message that ‘tolerance’ is a paramount value. From abortion to euthanasia, we are constantly told that opposition to these practices is callous and inhumane. We are told that we cannot impose our own narrow morality on people who do not agree. 

Sadly, in the case of assisted suicide/euthanasia, it’s this tolerance that really can make the life or death difference.

Perhaps this is why medical people like palliative care physician Timothy Quill have remained a central focus of proponents of ending life on human terms rather than God’s. In the Vacco v. Quill case more than 20 years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a state to outlaw assisted suicide.

But in the intervening years medical aid in dying has been approved and upheld by state law in 10 states and the District of Columbia. And while Quill may have started the cultural shift in America, we are thankful for physicians like Jeff Barke who provide a principled perspective. He recently said, “It’s a terrible advancement that states are legislating the rights and the power of a physician to act God-like and create and expedite a patient’s death.”

Some may ask “Where do you draw line?” We would respond with a simple reminder that death is never a treatment; it is the final chapter in a life authored by God.