Jack Kevorkian Was Not a Murderer

He was a freedom fighter who understood the importance of personal liberty

You don’t know Jack. A public memorial was held in Michigan on June 10th for an American freedom fighter named Dr. Jack Kevorkian who died seven days earlier at age 83. Like all freedom fighters, he actively resisted oppressive laws and oppressive governments that created those laws. Such persons correctly understand that freedom is personal liberty, that it is individual independence, and that it is exemption from external dictates. He didn’t simply understand that; he did something about it.

Humans do not have the freedom to choose when or where or under what health-related circumstances they are born. Accordingly, they can be born during hellish times at god-forbidden locations while suffering excruciating, debilitating, and terminal illness. And there’s not a damned thing they can do about it. But they often can do something about when and where and under what health-related circumstances they die. In other words, they often do have the personal liberty and the individual independence to choose not to die wallowing bedridden in their own shit while suffering from years of progressive dementia and painfully terminal sickness. They often have the sufficient mental and verbal wherewithal—but not the physical ability—to resist statutory demands, i.e. laws, of a state or federal government that pompously claims to know what a competent individual can and should personally tolerate in response to such horrific ignominy. Such demands, such infringements upon personal liberty and individual independence can only be combated by freedom fighters like Dr. Kevorkian.

The word “euthanasia” comes from the Greek term meaning “good death.” It is defined as the painless mercy killing of a hopelessly sick or injured person. Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is defined as the act of a medical doctor using lethal drugs to aid a person in ending his or her life after that person has made the knowing and voluntary decision to quickly die so as to relieve intractable suffering in connection with a debilitating incurable illness. If the patient flips the switch, then it’s PAS and therefore (with some exceptions) legal, most notably in Montana, Oregon, and Washington as well as in Switzerland. But if the doctor (or any other third party) does it, then it’s euthanasia and therefore illegal.

Dr. Kevorkian stated that he assisted at least 130 “terminally ill” patients who themselves flipped the switch, with the doctor only assisting by attaching the patient to a device that he had created. He was arrested, tried and acquitted for assisting in the death of three persons between 1994 and 1997. His first public assisted suicide was in 1990 in Michigan. He was charged with murder but no prosecution took place because there were no laws in that state regarding assisted suicide. In 1998, again in Michigan, he and his patient Thomas Youk, who was totally physically incapacitated in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease and who had provided full informed consent, appeared on 60 Minutes where Dr. Kevorkian administered a lethal injection. As a result, he was tried for murder; the prosecutor argued Dr. Kevorkian had committed euthanasia. He was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 to 25 years in prison. He served eight and was released in 2007.

The idea of a state or federal government intruding upon the mind, body and soul of a sufficiently mentally competent individual by criminalizing his or her right to die with dignity in a manner chosen by him or her in order to avoid an increasingly painful and obviously pending death is the height of tyranny.

As eloquently stated by 30-year-old Betsy Harron of Allentown—who was so moved by Dr. Kevorkian’s compassion, selflessness, and respect for dignity that she had “Fever” (one of his many impressive paintings) tattooed on her entire back—anyone who considered him to be a heartless murderer should “find it in themselves to imagine how they would feel if the one suffering was their mother, son, husband or sister.”

And as pointed out by the good doctor himself, “Dying is not a crime.” With all due respect, Dr. Kevorkian was wrong about that. Dying is a crime in most of America—at least until America begins to truly know Jack.