I swore to myself that I’d not comment on the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I’m a staunch advocate of physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people as long as it’s done through an informed decision process.
The late Doctor required this. He wouldn’t directly involve himself until the process had run its course. But, once the process had run its course, he considered only the PATIENT’S wishes. Contrary to what others may have believed, it was never a simple matter of calling him to see if he could work them into his schedule.
But, even though I agreed with his philosophy, I was NOT an avid fan of Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist. So, please note that what follows is purely MY opinion and doesn’t mean a thing to anyone but ME.
I don’t think that Jack Kevorkian was the right champion for the cause. He could have been very effective had he learned to keep his emotions in check. But, he didn’t. He constantly leveled personal attacks against his dissenters, especially religious opponents, other physicians, and law enforcement.
There was no need for this. As a society, we don’t permit our pets to suffer ONE-TENTH as much as we permit humans to suffer when it comes to end of life medical decisions. Where is the logic in forcing humans to suffer, often excruciatingly?
He NEVER advocated involuntary euthanasia. But, at the point where medical science decrees that nothing more can be done and a patient of sound mind decides to end the suffering, what is the point of denying physician assistance in doing so?
Even the staunchest of religious opponents cannot proffer FACTS to counter this logic, only emotions based on faith. If religion dictates non-participation, fine, don’t participate. But stop trying to pass laws that make it illegal for the rest of us to do so.
Unlike the religious among us, many others do not view suffering as a special gift from God. Some of us—I’m one of them—think this is pure nonsense. There is no way that the unbearable pain from end-stage terminal illness makes us feel “special.”
But, instead of sticking to sound, logical reasoning, he succumbed to a personal attack frenzy, including flaunting law enforcement to “stop me if you can.”
He went from a passionate proponent of a worthy cause to an arrogant, almost narcissistic participant. You can’t flaunt the law and dare law enforcement to “stop” you from breaking the law.
They usually succeed in stopping self-acknowledged lawbreakers. In Dr. Kevorkian’s case, they DID stop him. They convicted him of second-degree murder and sent him to prison.
Like many mavericks, he ended up letting his emotions override his sound reasoning. He confused passion FOR a cause with emotional investment IN a cause.
And, given the video evidence of his inserting an IV into the arm of a latter stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient (aka ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease)—that Kevorkian, himself, provided to CBS—it was a righteous conviction.
As well, had he been younger and remained in better health, he would have spent closer to 25-years in prison instead of only 8-years.
But, even in light of all of this, I never considered him the devil’s advocate; and I always thought his compassion for the terminally ill was sincere. I simply disagreed with his bluster, not his cause.
However, for an example of sheer self-absorbed, babbling moral absolutism on the part of one writer, check out an article published in The Week, a weekly news magazine.
Here is the piece to which I refer. Read it if you’d like. However, I am going to quote, and comment on, the single part that I found to be blatantly pontifical.
“His own death proves Kevorkian was just a murderer: Jack Kevorkian was nothing but a serial killer, says Mark Noonan at Blogs for Victory. “If he was in any way sincere about what he did, he would have hooked himself up to one of his own infernal machines and offed himself when it became clear there was no cure” for his kidney and heart problems. But he went to a hospital, which is where “you go when you want someone, some how, to keep you alive,” because you know life is precious, not something to be thrown away.”
Perhaps Mr. Noonan should consider checking the facts before issuing his proclamations. But he didn’t. Consequently, he ends up with the virtually impossible task of convincing readers that he’s NOT an idiot AFTER he’s already shown that his IS.
First, the late Jack Kevorkian never advocated that suicide is the only way to deal with terminal illness, only that it should be an option for those who wish to use it.
Second, even after he received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, he announced that he was not YET a candidate for physician-assisted suicide. The operant word was “yet.”
When he entered the hospital the last time, he did so for some additional diagnostic evaluation regarding his kidney condition. He had planned to leave the hospital once this was completed.
Developing pneumonia was not part of his plan. Neither was the fact that it worsened to a point of his drifting into and out of consciousness, making it impossible for him to leave the hospital.
And, even though he was unconscious at the time it happened, he sure as hell didn’t plan on the pulmonary embolism that killed him. Given all of this, he died in a hospital as a matter of circumstances beyond his control.
While I’m speculating a tad bit here, I believe that had things gone according to the late Doctor’s original plans, once released, he would NOT have gone back to the hospital.
And, as his condition progressed toward its end-stage, he would have hastened its end through timely suicide, assisted or otherwise. The man was no hypocrite.
Mr. Noonan never approved of Kevorkian’s philosophy or directness. I have no problems with this. However, I think he’s a moral absolutist who feels compelled to “help” God—advertised by humans to be omniscient, all-powerful, and omnipresent—manage the universe.
Conversely, he fails to understand that reasonable people, even those who are morally predisposed to suicide, do not rush out and kill themselves as soon as medical science declares them terminally ill.
Like the rest of us, they choose life as long as it remains relatively enjoyable and they can function without losing their dignity. Jack Kevorkian was no different.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.