Barbara Huttmann’s A Crime of Compassion is a short description of the moral and ethical conflicts that arise in the nursing profession with the medical practice of euthanasia. Huttmann discusses the history of a patient to whom she had administered euthanasia and the negative reactions that were directed to her after the ordeal. Having interacted on a daily basis for six months with the suffering that the cancer patient underwent in form of physical pain and the emotional trauma that the nuclear family had due to the illness, Huttmann had resorted to mercy killing for effectual handling of the situation (Huttmann 2). After the mild form of assisted suicide, the narrator is condemned for her actions when she justifies her actions and this leads to the formulation of the thesis as to what extent did scientific intervention constitute to an upright practice with regard to God’s duty in existence and life continuity.
Mac, the patient is identified as a low enforcer whose initial visit to the hospital is attributed to persistent cough that does not seem life threatening until a series of examination reveal a classical condition of lung cancer. As the patient is admitted, Huttmann is assigned to him for standard daily procedures in terms of pain management, physical health maintenance and monitoring of life support machines used for feeding and maintaining basal existence conditions (Huttmann 2). As vivid description of Mac’s suffering is given and the resulting transformation that pushes the nurse towards the execution of euthanasia. Huttmann notes that the patient’s health had degraded to a level that required three or two resuscitations on a daily basis, the loss of vital bodily functions like bladder and bowel management, hourly requirements of changing the sleeping conditions due to the sores that developed from prolonged inertia and feeding processes that employed the use of an intravenous system through the stomach.
Huttmann notes that the pain on Mac was so intense triggering colossal perspiration that required bedding changes in two-hour frequencies. The cancer had affected the lungs to a great extent that the lungs would fill with fluid very frequently necessitating manual suctions. Mac’s wife and her husband implore the narrator for death to end the anguish and for six moths the request is turned down by the patient’s doctor, the only authoritative individual towards the plea. Huttmann actually consults on a daily basis with Mac’s doctor for the administration of euthanasia but to no avail. Wedged between her nursing requirements and the compassion towards the suffering family, the narrator decides to honor the request that she clearly knows has dire consequences of murder charges (Huttmann 3).
The emotional supports accorded to the narrative are realized through the application of first person narration and imagery. The recitation style is effective in that it allows the reader to interact with the narrator on a higher level necessitated by the emotion evidenced in the tale through subjective descriptions. This is enhanced by the element of imagery created by the descriptive element noted in the patient’s suffering, wife’s agony and the indecisiveness that the nurse faces during the mercy killing. The narrative is very balanced and interesting as it avoids leading conclusions for the reader to create their own perspective into the narrative by condemning her actions as horrific or supporting her actions as compassionate. Additionally, it overcomes the weakness of personal bias evidenced in single author publications as the writer tries to coerce the audience towards a certain manner of thinking.
The thesis is well developed in the narrative as it raises the moral conflict presented in the interaction of science (secular) and personal belief (spiritual) within the medical fraternity. Huttmann questions the credibility of the rules set by science and the conviction that arises from personal individual ideals towards the welfare of both sided of the argument (Huttmann 2). The ethical conflict is noted in her hesitance to refrain from the ‘blue-code’ as questions flood her mind as to what would be the correct thing to do. The writer avoids any form of leading conclusions that may coerce the reader to a specific thought line. The supports are well used as they infuse a dramatic effect in the narration marked by the rising and falling episodes of personal and practices conflicts that the narrator faces. This overcomes the weakness of monotony that is evidenced in flat narratives.
Huttmann, Barbara. A Crime of Compassion. 1983. Web. 14 March 2011.