Jewish World Review April 28, 1999 /12 Iyar, 5759
Kevorkian is stopped
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
ONE MIGHT ALMOST THINK that Jack Kevorkian wanted to be punished. His death
trade had been tooling along nicely with more than 100 victims to his credit
and scarcely a raised eyebrow from the authorities. The newspapers gave his
assisted suicides perfunctory coverage, with the exception of one
particularly grisly body he deposited at the morgue.
(Kevorkian had ripped
the man's kidneys out, tying off the blood vessels with dirty string.)
Perhaps Kevorkian couldn't bear to be out of the headlines for so long and
therefore viewed Thomas Youk as an opportunity. Youk's death was different
from any of Kevorkian's previous efforts in two ways. First, it was
broadcast live on national television. Second, Kevorkian himself
administered the deadly dose of drugs instead of permitting the "suicide" to
pull a lever that would release the chemicals into an intravenous line.
It was about as direct a challenge to the state of Michigan as could be
imagined. Dr. Death had been at war with official Michigan for many years.
It began when the state revoked his medical license, continued with four
criminal prosecutions (three of which ended in acquittals and one in an
intentional mistrial), and went further still with a law passed by the
legislature making it a crime to assist someone who is killing himself.
Within the past two years, pro-euthanasia forces succeeded in putting mercy
killing on the ballot. It was defeated 2-1.
Kevorkian, who regards anyone who disagrees with him as either stupid or
malevolent or both, was finding it hard to live with the decision of
Michigan voters that mercy killing ought to remain a crime. And so he found
the ideal way to thumb his nose at them -- he enlisted "60 Minutes" and
virtually invited the state to arrest him.
It did. The producers of "60 Minutes" were fortunate to escape the charge
of aiding and abetting a murder, but that's another matter.
Blinded by zealotry, Kevorkian then made another mistake. He elected to
serve as his own attorney.
Kevorkian has always believed that his claims of righteousness are
incontrovertible. His was the humanitarian approach to sickness and dying,
he claimed. His "patients" had terminal illnesses and came to him in
desperation, knowing that assisted suicide was their only escape from weeks
or months of pain and suffering.
But, as a jury finally decided, those claims were false.
In the first place, not all of Kevorkian's victims were terminally ill.
Many listed multiple sclerosis as their reason for seeking death. MS is not
fatal. Others were not sick at all. Rebecca Badger was 39 when Kevorkian
helped her to kill herself. She had told him that she suffered from MS. But
after her death, the coroner who performed the autopsy announced that she
did not have the disease. "I can show you every slice from her brain and
spinal cord," he said, "and she doesn't have a bit of MS. She looked robust,
fairly healthy. Everything else is in order -- except she's dead."
Another of the women who sought out Kevorkian's services had been beaten by
her husband in the days before she killed herself with the good doctor's
It isn't that assisted-suicide advocates have no arguments. There are some
very hard cases that make the rigid foreclosure against hastening death seem
cruel. But assisted suicide is not the answer. Those who truly want to end
suffering offer palliative care, psychiatric treatment (we can treat
depression; we can't bring people back from the dead), and loving support.
Assisted suicide slips very readily into the scary, immoral world of
pushing inconvenient people toward an early grave. What begins as an effort
to deal with the hard cases of severe suffering very quickly degenerates
into a pattern of serving the convenience of people other than the
patient -- an exhausted spouse, stressed-out children or the wider society
(the Hemlock Society believes sick, elderly people should be euthanized to
save health-care dollars for younger people).
This is exactly what has happened in Holland, where the elderly carry
"passports for life" in their wallets to avoid euthanasia if they should
happen to be hospitalized.
Thanks to one Michigan jury, and a tough judge
whose sentence concluded with "Consider yourself stopped," we have taken a
step back from that
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©1999, Creators Syndicate