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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Act of compassion was not a murder

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

I know the following editorial opinion will not be popular in all quarters. And for those deeply offended by my position, I defend your right to differ. The opposition to my position will fall on religious grounds, I assume. And there is no value arguing religious positions. So accept it for what it is - my opinion.

Daillyn Pavia is a nurse in suburban St. Louis. In May 2001, 86-year-old Julia Dawson suffered a severe stroke in her south St. Louis home. She was placed on life support. And the prognosis was dismal. Frail to begin with, Dawson's son would later tell authorities his mother was "beyond help before arriving at the hospital." And Pavia was her nurse.

Seeing the condition of the elderly woman and fully understanding the condition, Pavia gave Dawson more than 15 times the maximum dosage of morphine that was prescribed. Dawson died within 10 minutes.

The nurse was originally charged with first degree murder. But this week, the prosecutor and her attorney worked out a deal. Pavia pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was placed on five years probation. She will be eligible to work again as a nurse once her probation is over.

The topic of "mercy killings" is a touchy subject in our society. It will probably always remain that way. But the sentence imposed on Pavia was justice, in my opinion. A first degree murder charge would have been outrageous.

The law says that Pavia's act was murder. And the law should be changed. There is no sense in discussing the details of the elderly woman's condition. Suffice to say it was horrible by any definition. And when you bring up the issue of "quality of life" and not just the ability to maintain brain function, the nurse's actions are understandable.

I don't want to pin a badge of honor on Daillyn Pavia. But at the same time, I don't think society is justified in branding her a murderer for an act of true and pure compassion. The pain and suffering she must have witnessed on that fateful day surely was what prompted her actions. And without walking in her shoes, you cannot and should not make a judgment.

The courts were right in granting probation for Pavia. Dawson's family unanimously agreed with the court's decision. All of this may not make it right in your mind. But it does in mine.

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