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Kevorkian Made It

June 1, 2007

One of today’s top stories:

Kevorkian leaves prison after 8 years

Jack Kevorkian had few words but a broad smile as he walked out of prison Friday, ending eight years behind bars for helping end the life of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The retired pathologist known as “Dr. Death” said his release felt “wonderful — one of the high points in life” as he paused near a van that was waiting to drive him to the home of friends in suburban Detroit.

Outside a gift shop across from the 25-acre prison grounds, about a dozen people stood in a show of support. The group held signs bearing such phrases as “Jack, we’re glad you’re out of the box” and “Dr. K is on his way!”

The attention focused on a man who claimed participation in at least 130 assisted suicides brought a rebuke from the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit.

“For 10 years, Jack Kevorkian’s actions resembled those of a pathological serial killer. It will be truly regrettable if he’s now treated as a celebrity parolee instead of the convicted murderer he is,” archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said in a statement.

The 79-year-old Kevorkian, wearing his trademark blue cardigan and a striped shirt and tie, spoke only a few words to reporters after leaving the prison with his lawyers and legal assistants.

I’d post this one here because 1) it’s one of those hot-button right to life/death issues that gets people all emotional and 2) get the views of some of the other WP political bloggers.

Personally, I never had a problem with this guy.  I figure, if I wanted to die, I don’t want someone anyone telling me that I can’t do it.  Like “No, sorry, you’re going to have to keep living in pain because of my beliefs”.   Sooner or later we may all get to this point, and I’m not ready to judge those who want this for themselves or the people who are brave enough to grant that request. 

It is worthy for debate though.

Callin the crew!
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  • BTW-  Please let me know if you consider it poor form to ping you guys at random like this.  I thought I’d give it a shot.

    5 comments

    1. I agree this is a very sensitive issue, probably more so for some than abortion. I used to be hard line against it, still am to some degree, but at least now I am willing to listen. I would have you to consider these arguments against and carefully weigh them in your own mind the consequences that could result from this if it ever became widespread.

      1. It would violate doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Upon receiving a medical degree, each doctor is required to take a Hippocratic oath, which says among other thing, “First, do no harm”. Assisting in suicides would be a violation of that oath, and it would lead to a weakening of doctor-patient trust. The oath was created in part so patients could be reassured that doctors only wanted to help them, not hurt them. A weakening of that oath may cause patients to wonder.

      2. It demeans the value of human life. In this country, human life means something. For each death, we have 1-2 days of ceremonies, elaborate burials, and months of mourning. When 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, donations poured in from all over the country. We donated money, blood, time, prayers, and tears. And we will probably always mourn the annual anniversary of the attacks. In other countries around the world, life isn’t so sacred. Wars are fought constantly for disputed territories and old grudges. People celebrate having their sons and daughters blow themselves up and kill scores of civilians. The Iraqis, Communists, Nazis, and others have shown us that human life is to some, nothing more than a science experiment or political resource. The thing that elevates Western society above others, generally speaking, is the value we put on each and every life. To stomp out a life because it’s not convenient or it’s expensive demeans that value. Human life is much more that just a cluster of biological cells.

      3. It could open the floodgates to non-critical patient suicides and other abuses. Any loosening of the assisted-suicide laws could eventually lead to abuses of the privilege. For example, patients who want to die for psychological or emotional reasons could convince doctors to help them end their lives. Attitudes would loosen to the point that certain states may decide that any person can commit suicide at any time. We can’t let our values shatter this way.

      4. Doctors and families may be prompted to give up on recovery much too early. If a patient is told that he has, for example, six months left to live with progressively worse pain, he may decide to end things before things start to get worse. This wipes out valuable time that can be spent with family and friends; it also denies the slim chance of a recovery or the possibility of discovering a doctor error.

      5. Insurance companies may put undue pressure on doctors to avoid heroic measures or recommend the assisted-suicide procedure. Health insurance providers are under tremendous pressure to keep premiums down. To do this, they must cut costs at every turn and make tough decisions. Many doctors are already prevented from give patients certain tests or performing certain operations despite what the doctor believes is truly necessary. Legalizing assisted suicide would likely invite another set of procedures as to when life-sustaining measures should be undertaken. We shouldn’t give the insurance companies any more power over human life.

      6. Miracle cures or recoveries can occur. You can never underestimate the power of the human spirit. A cheerful, never-give-up attitude can often overcome the longest of odds and the worst of illnesses. You also have to consider the constant medical and pharmaceutical advances that just might lead to a miracle recovery. We should never get to a point where we spend more time looking for a way out of life than for a way to sustain life.

      7. Doctors are given too much power, and can be wrong or unethical. Patients put their faith and trust in the opinions of their doctor. If doctors tell a family there’s absolutely no chance for a patient to survive, the family is likely to believe them. This is a problem for two reasons. First of all, doctors make mistakes just like any other people. A wrong diagnosis could lead to the suicide of a savable person. Second, doctors have the ability to play God and decide who they encourage or discourage on the prospects of recovery. For example, imagine a doctor who believes there is too much of a shortage in medical staff & resources to pour extra time & money into elderly people. He may always lean towards the side of “no hope” when the odds are sketchy. Decision-making ability on matters of life and death should stay where it belongs–with God, not doctors.


    2. Those are some interesting points there regman. I still don’t know though. The oath can be amended. Miracle cures aren’t available to everyone. When we euthanize a sick pet it’s usually called the “humane” thing to do. Do you ever wonder why we don’t apply the same standard to ourselves? Or do we just tell ourselves that to allay the burden of guilt we have for making the decision out of convenience?

      If I was enduring so much pain and suffering, and my situation was so grave that I was literally begging you to end it for me, you still wouldn’t do it? I know that this is an uncomfortable subject, and we probably can’t give an accurate prediction of our actions unless we ourselves are put into that position, but I think that I would want to have this right for myself. I don’t believe this is devaluing human life. We all die eventually, after all. I don’t see a slippery slope either, as this is a decision that is so inherently personal and individual in nature.

      I appreciate your very thoughful response and argument against this, but I think that your last sentence there pretty much sums this up. The issue most people have with this is a religious one. By comdemning this based on what you believe God desires basically puts your beliefs ahead of mine as I lay dying in pain. Would you want my beliefs imposed on you in such a manner if the situation were reversed?


    3. Wow, when I mention God or the devil, it seems to really spawn quite a reaction from you. To be honest, I thought reasons # 3 – 5 were the most powerful ones. I don’t want my life reduced to that of a pet. It is very doubtful you would have to lay there in pain, the same advances in medical technology that can kill us can also eradicate just about any pain we may experience while still alive. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that condition, all I can say is you only get one chance on this earth, why not err on the side of life, because there are many stories of hopeless situations being turned around. I guess it would also depend on the age of the person, if someone was 102 years old and hooked up to a breathing machine he would never get off of, but then again he wouldn’t live much longer anyway. That would be different, in my thinking, than a 30 year-old sitting in that same condition.

      Like I said, I have softened somewhat on this issue. But, I still think this procedure should be the exception rather than the rule. The Dutch, for example, are either discussing, or have already implemented, the o.k. to abort babies that will be born mentally ill. Euthanasia is already practiced for the same reason. A mentally ill person can get physician-assisted suicide. Is this the type of society we want? One where the least among us are not welcome? Sounds Hitleresque, if you ask me. Another example of abuse is the Terri Schiavo case. Whether you agree she should have been able to live or not, few people agree her husband should have had the authority to make that decision for her over the objections of her parents, especially given the lifestyle he led after she got in that condition. He shacked up with another woman, had kids with her, and at the same time pretended to say he had Terri’s best interests and wishes at heart in making the decision to starve her to death, give me a break! I don’t fault him for wanting to go on with his life, but don’t then want your cake and eat it too by keeping any authority the law “technically” gives you over her medical decisons, he should have given control over to her parents, and then just divorced her and walked away.


    4. In it something is. Clearly, many thanks for the information.

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    5. You have hit the mark. In it something is also idea good, agree with you.

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