Dr. “Jack,” Kevorkian passed away on 6/3/11. Last Friday, to be exact
He has been hailed as a champion by the right to die movement and vilified as a ghoulish serial killer by his detractors.
Dr. Kevorkian was born to Armenian immigrant parents in Pontiac Michigan, in 1928. He was an American pathologist, painter, composer and musician, as well as an activist for assisted suicide. For the right to die, with dignity and to avoid intense prolonged pain and the possible humiliation of dementia and loss of control of bodily functions. He was a genuine modern day Renaissance man. A brave and compassionate man.
In the 1980s, Dr. Kevorkian wrote a series of articles for the German journal Medicine and Law, laying out his thoughts on euthanasia. His belief in euthanasia was not based based on race, gender, political persuasion or any factor other than the relief of suffering and an unwavering belief in the right of a person to chose his/her own death. An individual choice, as opposed to the government forcing one to suffer needlessly.
Dr. “Jack,” put his activism in practice with the assisted suicide of Janet Adkins, a 54 year old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He could not find a home or building in which to do this, so he did it in the back of his Volkswagen bus, in a peaceful, sylvan setting.
Although Janet Adkins had given her signed permission, and wish to die in this way, Dr. Kevorkian was charged with murder. The charges didn’t stick, because at that time, there was no law in Michigan against assisted suicide. The patient being assisted had to initiate the euthanasia process themselves, as proof that they were the ones making the final choice.
Dr. Kevorkian was tried in Michigan courts four times. The first three times, he was aquitted and the fourth time the trial resulted in a hung jury. Dr. “Jack,” went on to assist over 130 people, who suffered from a variety of terminal illnesses, or relentless, unmanageable pain. Everyone of these people wanted to die. Many of them pleading with Dr. Kevorkian to end their suffering.
But Dr. Kevorkian wanted more than just to assist the dying. He was, after all, an activist for assisted suicide and he wanted to make a grand point and hopefully have laws in favor of assisted suicide. To this end, although all the assisted deaths before, were initiated by the patients and not the good doctor, he decided to give a lethal injection to a man dying from ALS, or Lou Gehrig‘s disease. Dr. “Jack,” videotaped this incident, as he had done with many of the others, but this time he called CBS and requested to be on 60 Minutes, and was granted an interview. During this interview, he showed the videotape to a nationwide audience. I offer this episode of 60 Minutes below. I feel I should warn people of the contents of this interview. It may not be an easy thing for some to watch;
This appearance on 60 Minutes prompted another investigation of Dr. Kevorkian. Because he administered the deadly drugs himself, this time. Something he had never done before. He was once again charged with murder, only this time, the odds were not in his favor. This did not bother the doctor one bit. A big part of him actually wanted to be convicted, to help further the cause of assisted suicide. And, when all was said and done, he got his wish. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison.
It’s difficult to say that he received a fair trial. Much of the evidence Dr. Kevorkian wanted to introduce was disallowed by the judge. But no matter, he was soon hauled off to prison where he did over 8 years of confinement.
As part of his parole agreement, he promised not to assist in any more suicides. He kept his promise.
I am writing this because, even though it seems like old news (and I have left a great deal out) assisted suicide is still illegal in all but two states. Oregon and Washington. Dr. Kevorkian was not happy that only two states had passed laws making assisted suicide legal.
I offer this in hopes of starting a discussion about the right to end one’s own life, by a trained physician, in a setting of comfort and calm and with the blessings of loved ones who cannot stand to see a member of their family suffer needlessly, and when their is no hope for any recovery.
- Jack Kevorkian helped others die (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Assisted Suicide Advocate Jack Kevorkian Dead at 83 (shoppingblog.com)