Little Bits of History

Dr. Death

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 27, 2011

Dr. Jack Kevorkian speaking at UCLA

March 26, 1999: Dr. Jack Kevorkian is found guilty of the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk by a Michigan jury. Dr. Jack was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1928 and became a pathologist. Beginning in 1987, he published ads in Detroit newspapers offering “death counseling.” He claims to have assisted over 130 people in their quest to end their time on earth.

Kevorkian was brought before the courts on numerous occasions for assisted suicides. He was represented by Geoffry Fieger and all prior cases resulted in his acquittal. Kevorkian designed a machine that would inject a lethal drug into an IV tubing when a button was pushed. After he lost his medical license, he began using a machine that would administer a lethal dose of a gas delivered via a gas mask.

On November 23, 1998, 60 Minutes aired a piece about Dr. Kevorkian and his client, Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old in the end stages of ALS [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease]. In the film shown, Dr. Jack administered the lethal dose via an injection that he physically delivered. The district attorney’s office brought charges. During this trial, Kevorkian fired his lawyer and represented himself. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. He was granted a parole in December 2006 due to his health. He suffers from Hepatitis C. He was released from prison on June 1, 2007.

Euthanasia, or “good death” is an escape from an intolerable life. It is legal for animals worldwide and people in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the state of Oregon. A recent poll in the US showed that 60% approved of assisted suicide. The reasons for euthanasia are threefold: 1. intractable pain; 2. a sense of autonomy; and 3. the right to die with dignity. The World Medical Association disapproves of assisted suicide but does grant that doctors can permit the end stages of disease that lead to death without interfering. Those opposing euthanasia cite the slippery slope of ethics that might make death less of a voluntary request and become more of a way to rid the world of those it does not desire to keep alive.

“I never want to wonder whether the physician coming into my hospital room is wearing the white coat of the healer or the black hood of the executioner.” – Alexander Capron

“Euthanasia is a long, smooth-sounding word, and it conceals its danger as long, smooth words do, but the danger is there, nevertheless.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Whenever the people are for gay marriage or medical marijuana or assisted suicide, suddenly the ‘will of the people’ goes out the window.” – Bill Maher

“The American Medical Association says the humane way is to let people starve and thirst to death. If you did that to an animal, you’d be put in jail immediately … In the face of such insanity masquerading as authority, who wouldn’t be strident?” – Jack Kevorkian

Also on this day:
Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Driver’s licenses – In 1934, the UK began testing for driving privileges.

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