Time Essay: Deciding When Death Is Better Than Life

I am a broken piece of machinery. I am ready.

− Last words of Woodrow Wilson, Jan. 31,1924

George Zygmaniak, 26, lacked the former President's rhetorical skills, but as he lay in a hospital bed last month in Neptune, N.J., paralyzed from the neck down because of a motorcycle accident, he felt that he was a broken piece of machinery.

He was ready to go. He begged his brother Lester, 23, to kill him. According to police, Lester complied−using a sawed-off shotgun at close range. Lester, who had enjoyed an unusually close relationship with his brother,...

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