Recently, Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross interviewed bioethicists Margaret Battin. Battin, a right to die advocate, now navigates the intersection between theory and practice has she attends to her quadriplegic husband.
Here is a description of the interview:
After writing books and essays about end-of-life issues, and advocating for the right to die, bioethicist Margaret Battin is wrestling with the issue in her own family. Her husband, Brooke Hopkins, an English professor at the University of Utah, where she also teaches, broke his neck in a bicycle accident in 2008, leaving him with quadriplegia and dependent on life support technology. In order to breathe, he requires a ventilator some of the time and a diaphragmatic pacer all the time. He receives his nutrition through a feeding tube.
Hopkins’ living will gives him the right to decline this technology, and although he’s chosen to keep living, there have been times he’s told his wife he wants to die, and she’s had to decide how literally to interpret his words.
In her academic life, Battin has also had to reflect on the positions she’s taken in the past to see if she still believes in them. She and her husband are in their early 70s. She’s a distinguished professor of philosophy and still teaches full time. When Hopkins is doing well, and not suffering from one of the many infections that have plagued him since the accident, he’s able to do some teaching from his home, talk with friends who come to visit, go in his wheelchair on walks with his wife and even occasionally get taken to a concert or museum.
Battin and Hopkins were profiled in the cover story of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Battin tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about what happened right after the accident, and the responsibility of deciding if someone is genuine in their wish to die.