Friday, June 01, 2007

Hit the Road, Jack! (and don't you come back)

I was debating with a legal colleague/friend of mine whether or not Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a hero, a villain, 0r neither. My friend, who has faced and coped with a life-threatening illness, felt that Kevorkian should applauded for bringing this important topic out into the open -- I felt that Kevorkian was a dangerous individual, who had taken advantage of the unfortunate situation of some vulnerable patients (the woman who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a non-terminal illness, comes to mind).

Now that Kevorkian has been released from prison, he wishes to re-activate the discussion. But I have to join with our friend and colleague, Art Caplan, in saying "Hit the road, Jack":

"Assisted suicide debate has passed Dr. Death by
Jack Kevorkian's back, but here's why we shouldn't listen to a word he says

The last time I saw Jack Kevorkian was April 23, 1994, in a courtroom in Pontiac, Mich.

Oakland County prosecutors had charged him in the death of 54-year-old Janet Adkins of Portland, Ore. The charges were assisting in a suicide, murder and delivering a controlled substance for administering drugs without a license. I was there to testify that what he had done to Adkins — providing her with his "suicide machine," which she used in the back of his 1968 VW van parked in a dark campsite to end her life — was both immoral and a gross violation of medical ethics.

Kevorkian, who became known in the press as "Dr. Death," was found not guilty. A few years later he was asked by Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old who had trouble breathing and swallowing due to advancing Lou Gehrig's disease, for help in dying. Kevorkian injected him with a lethal dose of potassium chloride while videotaping the ghastly proceedings. He sent the tape to "60 Minutes," which aired it. This gave prosecutors incontrovertible evidence that Jack had gone from assisting in suicides to personally killing people. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years for murder. After serving just over eight years, Jack is back.

I believed Kevorkian was a very dangerous killer then, and I still believe it now. He helped dozens of depressed and disabled people die without trying very hard to convince them to live..."

The rest of the commentary can be found here.

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