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Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Don't Know Jack : Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian

“Dying is not a crime.”
(May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011 )

An American pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, composer and instrumentalist, Kevorkian marketed limited quantities of his visual and musical artwork to the public.

All the big powers they've silenced me.
So much for free speech and choice
on this fundamental human right.

Jack Kevorkian started writing about euthanasia in the late 1980s. He wrote, first, in a German journal ‘Medicine and Law’, outlining his proposed system of planned deaths in suicide clinics. Later, he started writing for journals and papers in the USA.

His first 'suicide' was the 1990 death of Jane Adkins, 54. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in his Volkswagen van near Holly, Michigan. Her death was assisted by a 'suicide machine’, built by Jack Kevorkian “using $30 worth of scrap parts from garage sales” and hardware stores at his kitchen table.

Jack Kevorkian and his “suicide machine”

He opened a 'suicide clinic' in 1995, in an office in Michigan, but was thrown out by the owner a few days after his first client died.

“When your conscience says law is immoral,
don't follow it.”

On November 22, 1998, viewers of the CBS television program, 60 Minutes, watched in horror as Dr. Jack Kevorkian killed fifty-two-year-old Thomas Youk who was suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Youk had asked Kevorkian to end his life, and Kevorkian complied by injecting him with poison to stop his heart.

Youk was not the first person Kevorkian had helped to die, but he was (probably) the last. In 1999, the seventy-year-old Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to jail for ten to twenty-five years. What Kevorkian had done was deliberately hasten another person's death, an act of active ‘euthanasia’. He had assisted in the deaths of 130 persons.

Kevorkian said, “You're basing your laws and your whole outlook on natural life on mythology. It won't work. That's why you have all these problems in the world. Name them: India, Pakistan, Ireland. Name them - all these problems. They're all religious problems.”

Although acquitted of the charge of assisting suicide by three juries in the 1990s, Kevorkian finally crossed the line in 1998 by not only administering the lethal injection but also videotaping Youk's death and defying prosecutors to charge him. His goal in life was to overturn America's laws prohibiting both active euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“Am I a criminal? The world knows I'm not a criminal. What are they trying to put me in jail for? You've lost common sense in this society because of religious fanaticism and dogma.”



For those who missed seeing Kevorkian or his programs, You Don’t Know Jack is a brilliant HBO film (I saw it again, last night!) about his life, with Al Pacino playing the Doctor. Pacino won an Emmy for this role and so did the story writer Adam Mazer.

Jack Kevorkian : CD
Kevorkian Suite: Very Still Life

Jack Kevorkian : glimmerIQs
Paintings, Poems, Cartoons, Riddles, Writings
from his prison days

Jonathan D. Moreno : Arguing Euthanasia


“When history looks back,
it will prove what I'll die knowing.”
Jack Kevorkian

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Anonymous Sabina said...

I missed the passing of Jack - how is it that I missed this in the media??

Jack was amazing and hats off to his conviction and persistence in pursuing the basic human right to life and death with dignity and agency. It IS dogma that gets in the way of the authentic questioning of societal norms, as always.

RIP Jack.

18 September, 2011 16:13

Anonymous Sabeen Mahmud said...

Great introduction to Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Am ashamed to have not known about him. We must show the film at T2F - am really curious to hear people's views on euthanasia and lawyers' thoughts on "When your conscience says law is immoral, don't follow it.”

Thanks for our continuing education :)

19 September, 2011 18:50


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