Dr. Death Takes Hollywood

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Hollywood’s sophisticated humanitarians are at it again – this time with “You Don’t Know Jack,” a movie that celebrates M.D. and assisted-suicide convict Jack Kevorkian. Starring Al Pacino, the HBO production portrays Kevorkian, who boasts 125 notches on his assisted-suicide syringe, as a compassionate man persecuted by a lunatic fringe that dares to hold human life sacred no matter how diminished its quality.

Kevorkian takes a polar opposite view to the Church’s constant teaching that “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” He has claimed the right to end life and admitted in April to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “Anytime you interfere with a natural process you are playing God.” He has also mocked Christianity saying “Had Christ died in my [assisted suicide] van with people around him who loved him [it] would have been far more dignified.”

Here are a few facts about Kevorkian that the movie fails to mention:

Labeled by his medical school classmates as “Dr. Death” (because his hobby was to photograph patients’ retina blood vessels at the moment of death), Kevorkian urged that criminals waiting on death row be “used as human guinea pigs.” Experiments on criminals, he claimed, would save the lives of innocent animals killed in the name of science.

In a 1991 work entitled Prescription Medicide: The Goodness of a Planned Death, Kevorkian introduces the term “obitiatry,” the practice of experimentation on living humans while they are under anesthesia and prior to medicide. Dr. Death states that his ultimate aim “is not simply to help suffering or doomed persons kill themselves – that is merely the first step. . . .[What] I find most satisfying is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts under conditions that this first unpleasant step can help establish – in a word, obitiatry.”

Kevorkian also calls for the creation of boards that would certify obitiatrists trained in medicide. He would establish zones within a given state for obitiatry headquarters and death clinics, plans eerily reminiscent of the Nazis’ Charitable Foundations for Institutional Care.

Kevorkian made his public debut in 1990, when, after a brief meeting with Janet Adkins (who was diagnosed to be in the early states of Alzheimer’s disease), he agreed to aid her in committing suicide. Although reprimanded, he was not prosecuted because Michigan, unlike thirty-five other states, did not have a statue forbidding assisted suicide.

Since the reprimand did not stop him, the Michigan state legislature passed a restrictive law to curtail Kevorkian’s activities. Indicted three times, he was not convicted because the prosecution failed to prove that he actually intended to help people kill themselves, and because Kevorkian successfully convinced the jury that his goal was “to relieve intolerable pain and suffering…to remedy their [i.e., the patients’] anguish, their torture.”

Dr. Death’s killing spree continued. Autopsies of his victims, however, have revealed that most were not terminally ill. Consider the following examples:

· Suicide #3, Marjorie Wantz: she had a history of suicide attempts and complained of pelvic pain, but the autopsy did not indicate the presence of a terminal disease.
· Suicide #29, Ruth Neuman: the coroner’s office stated, “whatever they claim, she was not terminally ill.”
· Suicide #35, Judith Curren: she was overweight, tired, depressed, and her family had a history of domestic violence, but she did not have a terminal illness.

Dr. D.J. Dragovic, Oakland County Michigan’s medical examiner, who performed autopsies on twenty-seven of Kevorkian’s cases, said that “at least half had serious questions about being terminal,” and only four or five he said, “had just weeks to live…. There were a lot of people physically incapacitated that could have lived for many months to many years.”

The law finally caught up with Kevorkian in 1999 when a Michigan jury declared him guilty of second-degree homicide. The prosecutor proved that Thomas York, who was not physically capable of killing himself, was murdered by Kevorkian who administered the lethal injection. Kevorkian was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years in prison. The presiding judge said, “You were on bond to another judge when you committed this offense, you were not licensed to practice medicine when you committed this offense. . . .And you had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did and dare the legal system to stop you. Well, sir, consider yourself stopped.”

Kevorkian was paroled in 2007 after serving eight years in prison. Since his release, he has been on the lecture circuit addressing adoring crowds at colleges throughout the nation. At the April 19 preview of “You Don’t Know Jack” in New York’s Ziegfeld Theater, he walked down the red carpet alongside Al Pacino to a standing ovation.

Dr. Kevorkian and his groupies look forward to the day when legislation becomes law that will abrogate the rights of patients in favor of decisions by the doctor or the state. Obamacare, which includes medical rationing to reduce Medicare’s projected $50 trillion unfunded liability, will among other dubious benefits take the first step toward realizing that goal.

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.