Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. I am at something of a loss to add anything to what Andrea Mrozek said: “You always knew this was coming. It’s just hard to know what to say when a man like that dies. It takes a bit of a psychopath to kill over 100 people and then have ‘no regrets’ about that.” It is hard to watch a mass murderer being hailed as something of a civil rights or human rights crusader; most of the obituaries have been laudatory — see, for example, the Washington Post’s coverage of his passing — but as the American Life League said in a press release, “Kevorkian’s maverick image masked a serious threat to our culture in promoting euthanasia-on-demand as compassionate.” The media, which pats itself on its pack for getting to the bottom of stories, could not see past the mask. Kevorkian was a killer, not a hero. He preyed on the vulnerable. He did not give life, he took it.
Wesley Smith critiques some of the fawning coverage of Kevorkian’s death: the New York Times, Washington Post, and Barbara Walters, and praises the balanced and accurate coverage by Bloomberg. It is worth noting that Smith criticizes Walters who frets about the moniker Dr. Death as he reminds the journalist and readers that this nickname stems from a macabre habit he picked up before his macabre habit of killing the sick, elderly, depressed and otherwise vulnerable:
“Dr. Death,” apparently oblivious that he was called that because during medical school because he would haunt the hospital wards taking photos of patients as they died.
The National Right to Life Committee has a good post on Kevorkian’s passing. And as awful as the New York Times is, NYT columnist Ross Douthat is very good on life issues. He gets to the heart of the issue that there cannot be a right to die for the severely sick without opening the right to suicide for everyone:
The difference, of course, is that Kevorkian’s clients asked for it. That free choice is what separates assisted suicide from murder, his defenders would insist.
But this means that the moral case for assisted suicide depends much more on our respect for people’s own desire to die than on our sympathy for their devastating medical conditions. If participating in a suicide is legally and ethically acceptable, in other words, it can’t just be because cancer is brutal and dementia is dehumanizing. It can only be because there’s a right to suicide.
And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest?
Killing the sick and elderly and handicapped opens a Pandora’s Box to killing everyone. Of course, we should not oppose euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide because it would mean expanding killing to the healthy; we should oppose euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide because we should not expand the killing of human beings at all. It is wrong to deliberately take the life of an innocent person. Period. Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped lead us down a path in which every human life became a little less precious, a little less protected. He does not deserve the hero-worship in death, but he did deserve what he denied 130 people: a natural death. The world is full of ironies and paradoxes.
We will, of course, have an obit in the July issue of The Interim.