Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kevorkian out of jail - now what?

Many people in the right-to-die movement are viewing this as though he has the plague.

Read here for more:

To advocates, he is like the embarrassing dinner guest who ruined your last party with spilt wine and a drunken rant -- Kevorkian's name is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

“He’s the equivalent of a back-alley abortionist,” said Steve Hopcraft, a Sacramento lobbyist working to pass California’s assisted-suicide proposal, echoing a common sentiment.

Added Lloyd Levine, a sponsor of the California proposal: “Kevorkian is exactly why we need to pass this law.

“He operated with flagrant disregard for the law and took the law into his own hands. We cannot distance ourselves from Dr. Jack Kevorkian enough.”

Kevorkian defenders insist the movement should be grateful for him.
Neal Nicol, a Kevorkian associate present at nearly 100 assisted suicides, said today's activists should be thanking Kevorkian, not burying him.

“Had Jack not been here and did what he did, they wouldn't even be talking about assisted suicide in California,” said Nicol of Springfield Township.

I taught a class on death and dying in Michigan in the mid-90s. I agree that Kevorkian has stimulated debate about right-to-die issues, and has even pushed this issue far forward.

At the same time, though, while not calling him a "back-alley abortionist," he does carry some psychological baggage. Part of it seems to include his Warholian lust for his 15 minutes of fame, plus what almost seems like “survivor guilt” over the Armenian holocaust. Add to that what also seemed like, despite his dealing personally with patients, an almost clinical/technical focus on the mechanism of the assisted suicide, and he is not the best spokesman for the movement today.

Add also to that Kevorkian’s “brazenness” (glory-hounding might be a better tern) that grape_crush references below and, other than for news value, I’m not so welcoming of Kevorkian.

Add to that his lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, who could almost be a poster boy for tort reform legislation, and I can't blame right-to-die people for wanting to keep their distance from Jack.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.