Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcome Back, Jack

As of this Friday, Jack Kevorkian gets out of jail*, not exactly free. However, health issues and getting old aside, Kevorkian plans on continuing his advocacy for the right to die:

Kevorkian has told friends and corrections officials that he plans to continue his crusade to legalize assisted suicide, but that he will be less defiant in interviews and on the lecture circuit.
"He is totally out of the business of helping people die," said Ruth Holmes, a friend and jury consultant who met Kevorkian during one of his many criminal trials. "He's entering another phase of his life. He paid a big price for taking a stand."
More at the above link for the details of his release.

There's going to be a bit of a media brouhaha, not undeserved...Personally, I would like to hear his take on the Schiavo controversy, if he had the opportunity to follow any of it...But wishful thinking aside, what concerns me is not how detractors like the Catholic church and various right-to life groups will react to his release, but how assisted suicide advocates will treat him:
(Kevorkian's) release from a Michigan prison Friday -- one week before a planned California vote on whether to join Oregon as the only states to allow assisted death for the terminally ill -- could not come at a more critical or inopportune time for the movement, which has worked for years to legalize the practice and shed the ghoulish persona many associate with Kevorkian and his suicide machine.
Kevorkian -- who forced the nation to squarely confront end-of-life choices for the suffering and terminally ill, and who said he actively helped 130 people to die -- is now a pariah.
"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."
This greatly disappoints me; the 'Right to Death' movement in the US, such that it is, owes Jack Kevorkian a great deal of respect for giving up nearly seven years of his life to enter their cause into the public consciousness. Hopcraft and Levine seem to forget that Kevorkian's reason for his admittedly extreme actions was to get people to think seriously about how Americans handle the ends of their lives and to set up legal guidelines for euthanasia of the terminally ill.

Yes, Kevorkian brazenly broke the unspoken rule** against openly helping the slowly dying pass with dignity, but that rule was never a good one. The man is owed a large amount of respect from those that agree with the idea of assisted suicide...And if you don't agree with that idea, I hope you or a loved one never has a terminal illness to deal with.

P.S. If you live in California, call your representative today and encourage them to support the California measure.

* Kevorkian timeline here, if you are interested.
** But not the law, at least initially.