Jack Kevorkian (1928-2011)

Jack Kevorkian has died – from natural causes, ironically enough. Kevorkian was an advocate of assisted suicide. The media dubbed him “Dr. Death”. (I think it would have been more clever if they had called him “Suicide Jack”.) I have always had deeply mixed feelings about Kevorkian. On the one hand, I technically agree with the argument he was making. On the other hand, I was put off by the, shall we say, enthusiastic manner in which Kevorkian made his argument. (Derek Humphrey, of the Hemlock Society, called Kevorkian “a zealot”.) Kevorkian promoted himself in such a way that at one point he began to seem like a McDonald’s of death. Still, he was attacked in a manner that struck me as hypocritical. Kevorkian spent eight years in prison for second-degree murder, yet in what way was he any worse than, say, the state of Texas, which has executed hundreds of people, including at least one innocent person?

I actually began to pine for Kevorkian’s voice when the Republicans cynically tried to whip up public hysteria over the Terri Schiavo case. This whole episode deeply offended me. I remember when I went to see my father during the final weeks of his life, I found a notice taped to his refrigerator door, which was signed by my father and by his physician. It was an instruction to emergency medical technicians that under no circumstances was my father to be resuscitated. My father was continually ill during the last ten years of his life. He spent his final months flat on his back. There are times when the most humane thing to do is let go.

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