Posted by: – Apr 26, 2010
It might come as a surprise to some that Dr. Jack Kevorkian is still alive, let alone out of jail, off parole, and still swinging. Renewed interested has been sparked in Kevorkian (alias “Dr. Death”), 81, the American pathologist who served 8 years (1999-2007) in a Michigan prison for his role in assisting in the suicides of over 130 terminally ill patients over the period of a decade. The renewed interest came in lieu of HBO’s release of a biopic entitled “You Don’t Know Jack,” which stars Al Pacino in the titular role, as well as heavy hitters Susan Sarandon and John Goodman, and resulted in several recent TV interviews with the likes of Bill Maher and Anderson Cooper, among others.
“You Don’t Know Jack” aired for the first time this past Saturday, and was preceded by Kevorkian’s Friday night appearance via satellite on Real Time with Bill Maher. Most striking about the interview was Kevorkian’s jovial manner, and non-chalant demeanor in discussing his time in prison and the nature of his crimes. “The worst part of being in prison, is the snoring!” he stated, inciting a big laugh from the audience, which he may or may not have been shooting for. Appearing completely un-phased by imprisonment, he turns his focus on his peers in the medical profession, calling them out as cowards, stating that they “follow religious ethics instead of medical ethics.” The interview went on to show a different side of Dr. Death, however, when Maher exhibited several of Kevorkian’s paintings. One piece in particular, entitled “The Gourmet” shows a decapitated body at a dinner table, being served its own severed head. The artist explains the painting as a criticism of war, in which man is “devouring himself because he wants the best in life.”
Kevorkian’s visit with Anderson Cooper proved to be slightly more straight-forward, in which he further discussed his opinion of doctors (“they won’t [do] anything that will jeopardize their income or their reputation”) and the nature of medicine in general. In regards to those that criticize him as playing god, Kevorkian remarks “isn’t the doctor that takes a leg off playing god?” and adds “any time you interfere with the natural process, you’re playing god.”
Throughout the 1990s, Dr. Kevorkian was a constant source of controversy, garnering both harsh criticism and praise, before being found guilty of second-degree murder in 1999, and being sentenced to 10-15 years in prison, of which he served eight. It seems that his concerns lay more so in the government’s role of dictating an individual’s right to control their own quality of life rather than in any ethical issues tied to the act of euthanasia, of which he believes there are none. “Dying is not a crime,” he once said.
Currently, Kevorkian gives speeches across the country as part of his campaign to have euthanasia decriminalized. He also ran for congress in Michigan in 2008 as an independent, in which he received slightly under 9,000 votes, or 2.6% of the vote.
Image credit to https://www.msu.edu/~wrigh196/atl/kev7.jpg. Written by Jonny.