Confronting Death: Who Chooses, Who Controls? a Dialogue Between Dax Cowart and Robert Burt
Hastings Center Report. 1998 Jan-Feb; 28(1): 14-24.
On 21 November 1996, Dax Cowart and Robert Burt jointly delivered the Heather Koller Memorial Lecture at Pacific Lutheran University. This was the first time that they spoke together in a public forum. Dax Cowart now lives and practices law in Corpus Christi, Texas. In the summer of 1973, he was critically injured in a propane gas explosion that took his father's life and very deeply burned more than two-thirds of his own body. He was left blind and without the use of his hands. For more than a year Dax underwent extraordinarily painful treatments in the acute burn ward of two hospitals. Throughout his ordeal he demanded to die by refusing consent to his disinfectant treatments. Despite repeated declarations of competence by his psychiatrist, all his pleas were rejected. In 1974, while still hospitalized, he helped make the famous "Please Let Me Die" video, and in 1984 a second video, "Dax's Case." In 1986 Dax Cowart received a law degree from Texas Tech University. Burt and Cowart have corresponded over the course of several years on the subject of Dax's case and related issues. They met for the first time during their trip to Tacoma, Washington for the Koller Memorial Lecture. The following is an edited transcript of their public remarks.
Allowing to Die; Attitudes; Autonomy; Beneficence; Burns; Communication; Competence; Consent; Death; Decision Making; Dissent; Freedom; Hospitals; Human Rights; Informed Consent; Law; Life; Nurses; Pain; Palliative Care; Paternalism; Physician Patient Relationship; Professional Patient Relationship; Prolongation of Life; Quality of Life; Right to Die; Rights; Self Concept; Suffering; Time Factors; Treatment Refusal; Values;
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