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Dr. Kevorkian dies at 83
June 3, 2011 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, "the central figure in the tumultuous national drama surrounding assisted suicide," died today at age 83.

He died in a hospital, apparently due to kidney or respiratory problems.

Wikipedia has more details on his life. He was also a jazz musician and oil painter.

"My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience. . . . I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death."
posted by John Cohen (164 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by John Cohen at 6:47 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by buzzman at 6:50 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by chillmost at 6:51 AM on June 3, 2011


Farewell to a courageous & compassionate individual.
posted by PepperMax at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


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posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by stormpooper at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2011


A man of convictions.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by hippybear at 6:53 AM on June 3, 2011


Goodbye ghoul.
posted by pianomover at 6:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by h0p3y at 6:56 AM on June 3, 2011


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(can't help but wonder if he soloed it)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:56 AM on June 3, 2011


It's something the pundits are going to have a field day with, but, as I said on Twitter, I don't have the stomach for it. It sounds like he died peacefully and with dignity, which is all he wanted for his patients.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [45 favorites]


I highly recommend You Don't Know Jack, an HBO film starring Al Pacino. A quote therefrom:

Lynn Mills: Have you no religion? Have you no God?
Jack Kevorkian: Oh, I do, lady, I have a religion, his name is Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach. And at least my God isn't an invented one.

This man is my hero.
posted by PepperMax at 6:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


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posted by OmieWise at 6:59 AM on June 3, 2011


History will smile on him, I think.

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posted by Mooski at 7:00 AM on June 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


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posted by Rock Steady at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2011


I've worked in a palliative care ward. All he was trying to do was make legal the kind of things that happen already but aren't spoken of. And stop people needlessly suffering.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2011 [46 favorites]


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posted by halseyaa at 7:03 AM on June 3, 2011


thanks for not making kevorkian jokes. i'm really dreading the coming weeks of kevorkian jokes.

I'm really conflicted about him. I think he was probably a jerk, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the people he helped weren't in the best frame of mind to properly understand the choice they were making. But I pretty firmly believe people ought to have that choice and if they have it, you can guarantee that the choice will be made imperfectly. Even if Jack was a jerk, he was a fairly courageous jerk. I'm just not sure whether he helped or hindered on the net. Probably we won't ever really know that.
posted by lodurr at 7:04 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by The White Hat at 7:04 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by randomname25 at 7:07 AM on June 3, 2011


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Thanks for all your work. I hope that when it's my time to shuffle off this mortal coil, I can do it on my own terms.
posted by deezil at 7:07 AM on June 3, 2011


silentgoldfish, i've long suspected that was true. my wife's stepfather passed away recently from multiple organ failure, probable liver cancer, etc. He lingered a long time. in a hospital they could have kept him going a lot longer with dialysis and drugs, but his quality of life was more or less nonexistent from what we could see. I don't like to question too closely what my mother in law did or didn't do to prolong his life, because I'm afraid that someone who wanted to make a stink about it could make things hard for her. Probably it was all legal, but the gray areas mean I'm not sure and make me reluctant to talk about it.
posted by lodurr at 7:09 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Xoebe at 7:10 AM on June 3, 2011


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A great man fighting for simple human dignity.
posted by josher71 at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dr. Jack Kevorkian, "the central figure in the tumultuous national drama surrounding assisted suicide," died today at age 83.

apparently unassisted, ironically enough.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


A true hero.

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posted by Dumsnill at 7:12 AM on June 3, 2011


An unlikely hero, but a hero nonetheless.
posted by orange swan at 7:14 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by HLD at 7:15 AM on June 3, 2011


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He didn't help anyone cheat death.

But he helped a lot of people cheat the mind-destroying suffering of painful terminal illnesses, and allowed them to die on their terms rather than as puppets on the strings of their maladies.

And for that, we sent him to suffer in prison.

I challenge anyone to find a more Christ-like figure in modern American.
posted by orthogonality at 7:15 AM on June 3, 2011 [40 favorites]


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posted by orme at 7:18 AM on June 3, 2011


I've always appreciated his work, and hope that one day people will recognize that you don't have to die on a disease's terms.

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posted by FatherDagon at 7:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I met him once, at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Royal Oak. (the cashier confirmed that it was indeed him) He was in the back playing with golf clubs. He was a super nice guy, I went over and thanked him for helping people die with dignity.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


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America is uncomfortable with death, so we do a terrible, terrible job at it
posted by crayz at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


He's been a symbol of controversy since '87 or so, which is most of my adult life, and despite the decades of bad jokes at his expense from the media, I've always found him to be a figure to be respected. I didn't fully understand at 16 the idea that one day I might want to have the choice in the way I leave this world, but now, two plus decades later, and with a bit more perspective, I can totally appreciate what he was fighting for, and I thank him for bringing the conversation to the foreground.

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posted by quin at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by jessian at 7:26 AM on June 3, 2011


As is mentioned upstream, he really brought into the sunlight what happens every hour of every day in hospitals and hospice facilities. It is a shame that he wasn't able to take the fight all the way, this final choice needs to have the full support of our society and needs to be openly accepted and honored.

If you need a way to memorialize your respect or appreciation for Jack Kevorkian, you might want to consider making a donation to your local hospice facility.
posted by tomswift at 7:27 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Faint of Butt at 7:28 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by sinnesloeschen at 7:31 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by Rory Marinich at 7:35 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by acb at 7:35 AM on June 3, 2011


I used to buy into all the reasons against euthanasia (from a, perhaps odd, non-religious viewpoint) and the first time around, my ignorant youthful self was fairly anti-Kevorkian for someone who was fairly liberal in lots of other ways. Then life happened and I grew the fuck up.

Life = When I was 16, my grandfather died of really fast advancing lung cancer and though he could have fought it, he went to the home he'd shared with my grandmother -- a woman he'd been with since he was my age at the time -- and went quietly in his sleep with as much dignity as someone that sick could.

There's plenty of nights where I can't let myself sleep because I'm so afraid of death being the ultimate end. But the only thing I fear more than death is not being allowed to die if/when I'm ready if/when I'm being kept alive in unnatural ways.

(Sorry for the rambling, too personal rants but even though Kevorkian lived plenty of life - 83 sounds like a good age to die - but a "." didn't feel like enough because his passing has affected me quite a bit... probably because I used to be so violently opposed to him and probably because we haven't done enough to advance the cause he became the face of.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


He was a decent, compassionate human being, and brought peace to those in pain, who were ready to leave. He didn't just pontificate on some issue, he went out and did things that polarized people, and he pissed of those who would bow down to the imaginary Man in the Sky, which makes him even more decent, IMO.

RIP, Jack.

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posted by dbiedny at 7:37 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


apparently unassisted, ironically enough.

I know it's just a gag, and I thought the same thing myself, but really there isn't anything ironic about it. No proponent of legal access to voluntary end-of-life assistance suggests that everyone should end their own life or that anyone's life should be ended without their voluntary consent, indeed it is just these kinds of straw men specters that get trotted out by the opposition.

And it's led us to a world not just where an individual cannot legally elect to end their own lives, with or without assistance, no matter how certain and imminent their death and no matter how great their suffering, but where medical professionals can have a legitimate fear for the legal repercussions of sufficiently medicating the pain of the terminally ill because of the possibility of giving an unquestionably dying individual.

Kevorkian's legacy isn't uncomplicated. The issues of how society negotiates the factors of depression, disability and the fear of dependency as factors in electing suicide (as opposed to the simpler issue of a lucid but unquestionably terminal individual suffering intractable physical pain) with the legal availability of assisted suicide are far from simple. But it's cowardly to evade dealing with these complexities as a society, and rooted, I think (just as crayz notes) in a deep culture of the horror and denial and impulse to hide the inevitable reality of death. Whatever else he was, Kevorkian was brave. And at the root of his convictions he was correct.
posted by nanojath at 7:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I watched my father, already pretty much brain dead, suffer two weeks of agony. The hospital wouldn't give him enough medication because that would cause constipation of all insane things. It went on until a nurse risked his job and told us that we had the right to order my father transferred to a hospice.

We did, and though they allowed him to die (removed ventilation), and administered sufficient painkillers, they still were prevented from simply ending his life and we knew he would have wanted.

Dr. Kevorkian is a hero.
posted by sotonohito at 7:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


dbiedny, I think that's what sets him apart: rather than flail in the mandated channels, trying to enact change, he simply went out and DID.
posted by PepperMax at 7:41 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


("...giving an unquestionably dying individual an unintentional overdose of pain medications," the last sentence of my second paragraph should have said)
posted by nanojath at 7:42 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by longdaysjourney at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2011


He wasn't half bad at art, either.
posted by dbiedny at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2011


"Dr. Death" dead
posted by growabrain at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by localroger at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by Megami at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by xorry at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2011


His obsessive ego and his willingness to help people die who were a bit addled is deeply problematic, as is some of his thoughts about end of life care and depression. His legacy, while vastly appreciated, needs to be fully understood for how complicated it is.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


 O 
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posted by pardonyou? at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2011


I've never understood why he was so reviled. The number of times I've heard people say that they wouldn't let a dog suffer the way that humans are expected to hold on to the very last vestiges of life is beyond counting, and yet when someone was prepared to actually give his whole life over to the idea of allowing a person to choose the moment of their death he was treated as if he was complicit in murder.

Pro-choice, in both life and death. Not such a bad thing, I think. It doesn't mean it's compulsory, fer fucks sake!

Vale, Dr Kevorkian.
posted by h00py at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sherwin Nuland's great book, How We Die, has an excellent chapter that deals with euthanasia. He compares the experience of a young resident who assisted the suicide of a young woman with cancer that he had just met that day, and a physician who, after years of acquaintance, did the same for one of his patients. These are two very different ways of approaching death, and the comparison is at the heart of the furor over Kevorkian: was he like the rash young resident, making decisions for people he did not know well and at times of acute crisis when they might be better served to mull over their decision? Or was he like the long-serving family doctor, giving dignity and relief to the last days of people who sorely needed it?

His actions certainly speak to the latter (and I think that admirable archetype is the one he most resembles), but his prickliness, his arrogance, and, to a certain extent, his eccentricity make him a difficult person to like: and that, I think, is a large part of the divisiveness of opinion about him. Much like Julian Assange, whose ability to work for his cause is largely because of his unusual and perhaps difficult personality (or, hell, even like Moses who got his people out of slavery but couldn't join them in the promised land), Kevorkian excelled at the catalyst stage of his movement, but was not necessarily the person to lead the way in the wake of that change.

And I think that's a perfectly fine thing to be, and something we should thank him for. Thank you, Dr. Kevorkian, for making us talk about this, and figure it out. We're still working on it, and we will be for a long time, but we wouldn't have started the conversation if it weren't for you.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


Others of you have said it. Kevorkian was not a perfect figure. I don't know how much of that imperfection was real and how much was ginned up or misunderstood. I honestly don't much care. He's a hero to me because he brought something hugely important into the light and got it discussed and examined.

I have not a hint of doubt that there's people whose lives are going to be better when they get faced with the challenge of end-of-life care. Not necessarily because he accomplished anything concrete, legally, but because his actions brought this to the attention of people who might not have thought about it otherwise. Because of him a lot of us had conversations with our families about how we felt about this issue and what we will want for ourselves.

Thank you, Jack. If my time comes and I've done as much for the world as you have, even if it's just as complicated and imperfect, I'll consider my life a success.
posted by phearlez at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded how important advance directives are - especially given the prevailing medical opinions and laws that limit end-of-life decisions. No matter what country or state you live in, drafting a living will or some legal document setting out your wishes for your end-of-life care is an absolute must.

Please don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the largeness of the issue. The human capacity for denial and avoidance is vast. "I'll do it tomorrow." or "I don't know where to find a notary." or "I can't afford it." are not reasonable excuses. It can be as simple as speaking to your relatives about the type of care that you hope to receive when your end comes. Or it can be as complex as registering your living will online.
posted by jph at 8:04 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the greatest Man with a Van ever. RIP, Jack.
posted by hellbient at 8:08 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's terribly unfortunate how Kervorkian came to personify the Right-to-Die movement, considering the apparenly flagrantly cavalier attitude he demonstrated towards the end-of-life decisions that should be considered with extreme care and sobriety.

Let me make clear, I support the right-to-die movement and feel that people who are terribly sick, in pain and/or near the end of life should be given the opportunity to carefully make that decision.

That said, this expose that the Freep ran yeas ago exposes Kervorkian to be worse than "flawed" or "controversial" or "imperfect." His actions could be easily confused with those of a predator or serial killer who successfully conflated himself with a very popular and well-justified movement to change public attitudes and practices. He seems to have used the Right-to-die movement as cover in his bid kill a large number of people, many of whose circumstances were at worst at right angles to the types of cases that many of you are bringing up, and at best were far too poorly researched and far to briefly considered by Kervorkian prior to his administering lethal injections.

He's not a hero, and the RTD movement should not be made to suffer by association with his apparent crimes.

Disclaimer: If that Freep article was subsequently thoroughly debunked I retract these statements.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:09 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


my wife & I have discussed our end of life options and made our wishes clear to one another. but it would be really difficult to make that decision. writing kevorkian off as a 'coward' (as I've seen some people do on facebook and in media comments this a.m.) is just strange. coward he definitely was not. people who have the choice to do otherwise and instead risk jail are not what I would call cowards.
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on June 3, 2011


BigLankyBastard I think anyone who wants to die, for whatever reason, should be able to.

I'd rather depressed people didn't kill themselves, I'd rather they got treatment for depression.

But if they choose to die it is their life, their choice. Not yours. Not mine. Not society's. Not their family's. Their choice alone.
posted by sotonohito at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by Glinn at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2011


Jack Kevorkian will be remembered alongside Hippocrates like Einstein is remembered alongside Newton.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:14 AM on June 3, 2011


From TV Nation, 1994: Michael Moore spending a day chilling out with Dr. Death.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:15 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


He fought a good fight and brought to the forefront, at least for awhile, an issue that for nearly everyone becomes the most important ultimately: to die with dignity, respect, and in comfort. I agree with Silentgoldfish, above. Compassionate physicians, nurses, and other caretakers already help with these issues. He just wanted to clear the muddy legal waters.
posted by robstercraw at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by theartandsound at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2011


Dr. Kevorkian's death comes just days after the death by pancreatic cancer of Dr. Ann McPherson, a well-known GP who advocated for assisted suicide in the UK. I'm sorry to see that his NY Times obituary didn't mention her. Per The Guardian, she was a patron of Dignity in Dying and founder of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.

Dr. McPherson fought a long battle and passed away "just days after writing of her frustration at not being able to die."

In her own words:
"I know recently a palliative care doctor has said that every suicide is a tragedy. I don’t agree with that. I think that assisted dying for someone who is terminally ill may be a celebration, it shouldn’t be seen as a tragedy.

“It maybe means that they have much better dignity in their death and their family can be there and they can plan it in a way that they can get all the support that they want.

“I don’t want to go somewhere like Switzerland, to Dignitas, to be able to die with dignity. I want to have the option of being able to be in my own home, surrounded by my family and friends, if that’s what I want and how it happens.”
For Drs Kevorkian and McPherson, protectors of human dignity:

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posted by zarq at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thank you, Dr. Kevorkian. There is a history of Alzheimer's in my gene pool and I have always said that if I ever start showing the early stages, I won't be showing the later stages.
posted by Legomancer at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think anyone who wants to die, for whatever reason, should be able to.

Really? No standards or restrictions at all? That's utterly absurd. So, all those adolescent gay kids distraught over bullying should be able to get suicide pills, no questions asked? Oh, only adults then? OK, how about the jobless 20something who lost his house and whose parents both have recently died? Can he get access to easy painless death? I could go on all day.

No, it's statements like that one that bring discredit to the movement and muddy the issues surrounding end-of-life care. These decisions must be made carefully and according to enforced standards. That is, in a manner other than the way Kervorkian made them. It is in that context that the RTD case needs to be made.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


RIP, Doc. You did good work.
posted by davelog at 8:27 AM on June 3, 2011


> I think anyone who wants to die, for whatever reason, should be able to.

Seconded. If someone wants to die, even erroneously, it's nobody's business but their own.
posted by davelog at 8:29 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


BigLanky Bastard: I should be able to die if I want to, for whatever reason I choose. Counselling should be available for anyone who feels the need to commit suicide, and efforts should be made to convince them otherwise, but it should be their choice.
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? No standards or restrictions at all? That's utterly absurd. So, all those adolescent gay kids distraught over bullying should be able to get suicide pills, no questions asked?

That seems like a pretty extreme and uncharitable interpretation of what they said.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by clavdivs at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2011


BigLankyBastard Like I said, I'd rather depressed people get treatment. I'd like them to have all options presented. I'd like free counseling for people who need it.

But ultimately? Yes. Anyone adult. Any reason. I could see a waiting period (24 hours? 48? something like that) for people who aren't in physical pain. Otherwise no I don't see how we can morally force people to remain alive when they want to die.
posted by sotonohito at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


It is, after all, their life. Not yours.
posted by sotonohito at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by fatbaq at 8:35 AM on June 3, 2011


As of right now, almost anyone who really wants to, can actually kill themselves fairly reliably with a minimum of effort. Bridges, guns, and trains all offer reasonably quick methods for those determined to die.

This RTD discussion is not about suicide. It is about whether doctors, etc, should be able to assist those desiring death but too infirm to arrange it on their own, and that should be a very careful process indeed.

The cavalier attitude towards death displayed by Kervorkian and shown in statements like "I should be able to die when I want to, for any reason" fly in the face of the respect for human dignity at the core of the RTD case. Kervorkian himself admitted there should be rules, standards, and procedures surrounding these choices. He wrote a fairly decent set of rules. He then routinely ignored his own rules and killed people in ways dictated by convenience or circumstances.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: If that Freep article was subsequently thoroughly debunked I retract these statements.

It seemed like yellow journalism to me, an op-ed hiding as an investigative piece. I wasn't fooled by the attempt to hang him with his own guidelines while he was operating outside the norm, and without giving him the benefit of doubt. I also don't share their assumption that depression is somehow a complicating reason to cancel the right to die, perhaps only in fundie Michigan where unhappiness with God's curses is yet another sin. Meanwhile, the cost of healthcare climbs thanks to dying people artificially kept alive against their will until their bodies finally fail under treatment. I honestly can't think of a more ghoulish scenario than the status quo.
posted by Brian B. at 8:46 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


BigLankyBastard Ah. So people who don't meet your criteria qualifying for a civilized death can choose risky, messy, and dangerous and/or traumatizing to bystanders methods.

What gives you the right to control a person's life in that manner? What, exactly, makes you the arbiter of who gets a civilized death and who must risk a painful death?

As for the RTD movement, of course it's about suicide. You just don't want to give up control of other people's lives outside the boundaries you're comfortable with.

Ultimately it's all about the same thing: control freaks who can't stand the idea of people owning their own lives.
posted by sotonohito at 8:49 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is a reality that anyone who wants to kill themselves may certainly do so, well except for the bedridden people Jack Kevorkian helped. Ergo, we'd actually reduce suicide among depressed people by legalizing it.

There is some small chance of being so incredibly clinically depressed that suicide truly becomes the best option, fine. Conversely, there are undeniably hoards of depressed people silently contemplating suicide who'd break their silence for the chance of confirming their depression and killing themselves legally (and pseudo-publically).
posted by jeffburdges at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2011


BigLankyBastard, I think whether you view the facts in that article as evidence of real horror or just imperfection has a lot to do with where you start on the issue. I'm closer to sotonohito's perspective - if someone wants to die then my first inclination is to think their opinion holds more weight than anyone else's.

You certainly toss out some examples that I would think are tragedies if people choose to die rather than seek other solutions. But why is our opinion on what their choice should be so much more valid than theirs? When you say "OK, how about the jobless 20something who lost his house and whose parents both have recently died? Can he get access to easy painless death?" I think you're being a lot more telling than you necessarily mean to.

"Access to easy painless death" pretty well implies what we all know: he's already got access to death if he wants it. And to be frank, if he's smart and resourceful enough he's got access to easy and painless death, though it may not be quite foolproof. Is it really in our interest to limit access for the people who are less competent, to potentially inflict incidental suffering (and societal expense) associated with a failed attempt, or an attempt that succeeds in a horrible and painful way? Is it moral?

I don't think it's as easy a trade-off as you imply in your statement. And I, again, thank Kevorkian for devoting his life to making us ask these questions.

As far as the article - my issue with that article is that it throws out some numbers in the opener without sufficient clarity for me to necessarily buy right onto them. Like this block:

The investigation also debunks perceptions that Kevorkian only helps people who are terminally ill -- likely to die within six months -- or are in agonizing pain.

In fact, at least 60 percent of Kevorkian's suicide patients were not terminal. At least 17 could have lived indefinitely and, in 13 cases, the people had no complaints of pain.


Those numbers could fit completely within Kevorkian's guidelines. Were the 60% who weren't terminal nevertheless in pain? The total number attributed in an earlier graf was 47, meaning 28 non-terminal patients. Easy to fit 13 without pain within the remaining 19. The 34 remaining who apparently were in pain more than cover the 28 non-terminals.

And putting aside the innumeracy of the paragraph I think there's a telling bias in the obvious untruth that "17 could have lived indefinitely." Unless some of you are keeping secrets from me NONE of us get to live indefinitely.

I'm sticking with my assessment of imperfect hero.
posted by phearlez at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


As of right now, almost anyone who really wants to, can actually kill themselves fairly reliably with a minimum of effort.

Yeh, right. Except if they screw it up, then what? It's harder than you think (the body doesn't want to die, you have to know the right way to aim the gun / titrate the dose, etc.). And the particular population we're talking about are people who don't have those options.

So I don't find that a very compelling argument against allowing people to seek assistance in suicide.

The arguments that are compelling ot me have to do with determining whether people were unduly influenced. I don't have a solution for that, but I'm not willing to have the baby thrown out with the bathwater: People should have the right to make decisions about their own lives.

And I say that totally accepting and understanding that suicide attempts are commonly hostile acts, something done to hurt others, or a reckless act, something done without regard for the pain of others. Again, this discussion is not about those cases at all.
posted by lodurr at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by byanyothername at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2011


As of right now, almost anyone who really wants to, can actually kill themselves fairly reliably with a minimum of effort. Bridges, guns, and trains all offer reasonably quick methods for those determined to die.

This RTD discussion is not about suicide. It is about whether doctors, etc, should be able to assist those desiring death but too infirm to arrange it on their own, and that should be a very careful process indeed.


Absolutely. Derailing this discussion by talking about suicide and depression ( An illness that can make you want to kill yourself when you ordinarily WOULD HAVE NO INTENTION to) makes me see immediate red. Waiting period? WTF. A person who is suicidal due to depression is not making a 'rational choice' with their 'own life, not yours.'
posted by sweetkid at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


totally accepting and understanding that suicide attempts are commonly hostile acts, something done to hurt others, or a reckless act, something done without regard for the pain of others.

You seriously believe this?
posted by Dumsnill at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


totally accepting and understanding that suicide attempts are commonly hostile acts, something done to hurt others, or a reckless act, something done without regard for the pain of others.

You seriously believe this?
posted by Dumsnill at 11:59 AM on June 3


I know of a suicide that was done in the garage of his ex-wife, while she and their 2 children were at home. With a shotgun.

If that's not hostile, I don't know what is.
posted by SPUTNIK at 9:02 AM on June 3, 2011


Yes, their choices are irrational, but suicide prevention is mostly an issue of detection, epidemiologically speaking. And you'll vastly improve detection by legalizing & regulating it.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:03 AM on June 3, 2011


I can't tell you how many healthcare workers I've met who have quietly admitted their agreement with Kevorkian to me, when the subject came up. Perhaps there's hope for the future.


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posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 AM on June 3, 2011


And you think that is a representative example of suicide attempts?
posted by Dumsnill at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2011


I've followed Dr. Jack Kevorkians life since I was probably 12 or so (even had the opportunity of meeting his" famous" attorney Jeffery Figer when he was running for governor at a political rally back in the day). I've always admired that man, and I really think he was a martyr for his beliefs (going to jail, wtf?).

I am kind of sad to hear this news as I know he was in a local hospital sick, and hoped for his recovery.

The world needs more people like him.

He did good work, and made his mark.

.

(My uncle now has some appreciation value of his art work done by the good doctor)
(And one of my favorite local bands was named after him before he threatened to sue, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and The Suicide Machines)
posted by handbanana at 9:09 AM on June 3, 2011


dumsnill: I don't know about them, but I do, yes.

I'm not making a moral judgement. I understand better than I can make you believe what it's like to be in that "burning building" (to borrow David Foster Wallace's analogy). But in that moment -- as Wallace's analogy also makes clear -- you don't care about anybody else. And as for the attempts, with notes, and badly executed -- if they're not hostile, I don't know what is.

Again: This discussion is not about 'suicide attempts', but about assisted suicide for the terminally ill, and about the right to make that decision.
posted by lodurr at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by hooha at 9:11 AM on June 3, 2011


This RTD discussion is not about suicide. It is about whether doctors, etc, should be able to assist those desiring death but too infirm to arrange it on their own, and that should be a very careful process indeed.

It's a complicated issue for sure, perhaps Dr Jack was a good, good man with the best of intentions - let's say he was. However, with numerous articles out there regarding the ageing population, the pension burdens that they are creating - let's be aware that some corporate entities would save a heck of a lot of money if they could get away with withdrawing care from the most vulnerable under the pretext of 'reducing their suffering'. BTW i've had terminally ill and senile family members, i've cared for the elderly right up until death, so i'm not without experience. Some people have a genuine caring reason for rtd, but it's the corporate money savers I worry about.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The man was certainly an acerbic and arrogant personality. Whatever negatives can be said about him, at least he brought the subject of death with choice and dignity out from under the bed and made people confront what goes on with the dying, for which I salute him.

Choosing to end one's life should be a solemn business, taken with consideration of others, in consultation with professionals, and performed within strict, but humane guidelines, but ultimately, the answer resides with the individual.

It's amazing how many people think they need to control others, starting at the beginning, and all through till the end of life.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


he helped people exercise their autonomy at the ends of their lives, when generally the medical establishment would take power away from them. what an incredible thing to do.

perhaps there will be debate about how authentically he did this, but the movement and dialogue he created is incredibly powerful.

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posted by anya32 at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dumsnill (and others): Suicide is not a moral imperative, nor a human right. It's a fucking public health crisis. The phenomenon is also only tangentially related to Kervorkian and the movement he came to represent.

The people who staff suicide prevention hotlines, and the emergency responders who work to talk down jumpers, are not meddling control freaks. Neither are those who advocate careful consideration of requests for assisted suicide. You know why? Because the end-of-life decision is morally complicated, and needs to be handled carefully.

The RTD debate is not between those who love patient suffering and those desiring unfettered access to death. It is between those who want CAREFUL consideration of assisted suicide requests, and those who want such requests to continue to be rejected out of hand.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:14 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, you're right about those things. You feel Kevorkian set that back, then, is that fair?
posted by lodurr at 9:17 AM on June 3, 2011


nor a human right

This is where we disagree.
posted by Dumsnill at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


History will judge him well, because he was a pioneer in the field of human moral progress.

Opposition to human euthanasia is irrational at best and thoroughly wicked at worst.
posted by Decani at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2011


Respect to the Dr. and condolences to his family.
I always liked his paintings.

My favorite Kevorkian joke ever was on a Wayne's World sketch. After playing a parody video for R.E.M.'s 'Everybody Hurts,' Wayne declares that people all over the country are putting Dr. Kevorkian on their speed-dial.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds50-nwAGpw
posted by herbplarfegan at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by Navelgazer at 9:22 AM on June 3, 2011


Suicide is not a moral imperative, nor a human right. It's a fucking public health crisis.

Overeating is also a public health crisis, but food is widely considered a human right and a moral imperative.
posted by Brian B. at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2011


It might affect friends. It might affect family. Well, so might every other decision I make. A contributing factor to the ongoing "trauma" faced by those left behind is that we do forbid other, less traumatic ways for people to accomplish what it is theirs to begin with.

Ultimately, I don't think I want or need another person's approval of when I would personally like to end my oncoming suffering. Just try to imagine it. Stamps. Committees. Maybe it is like a parole hearing. Oh, wonderful. Strangers who know what is good for me, so much better than I would.

Whenever someone is trying to force a favor on me, for my "benefit," that's when I reach for my revolver.
posted by adipocere at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've worked in a palliative care ward. All he was trying to do was make legal the kind of things that happen already but aren't spoken of. And stop people needlessly suffering.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 3:02 PM on June 3


I have a surgeon in my family and I have spoken to many doctors over a few drinks. Every single one backs this up. They all told me that doctors already knowingly administer lethal doses to suffering terminal patients, they just have to pretend they don't by weasel words such as "giving sufficient medication for effective pain management."

The moral hypocrisy they are forced to endure by stupid anti-euthanasia laws is a disgrace.
posted by Decani at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


A doctor, a jazz musician, and a painter to boot! Not many renaissance men like him left anymore.
posted by Renoroc at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2011


Well, shoot. He did good work. RIP.

nanojath: "I know it's just a gag, and I thought the same thing myself, but really there isn't anything ironic about it. No proponent of legal access to voluntary end-of-life assistance suggests that everyone should end their own life or that anyone's life should be ended without their voluntary consent, indeed it is just these kinds of straw men specters that get trotted out by the opposition."

Yeah. As soon as I heard the news I braced for the accusations of "hypocrisy".
posted by brundlefly at 9:31 AM on June 3, 2011


Just wanted to chime in with others.

I witnessed what would be considered" assistant suicide" when I worked at a hospital on multiple occassions.
Basically, the family would gather in the room and administer a lethal dose of morphine or a similar drug which would cause respiratory failure. No one talked about it, but everyone knew what was going on.
posted by handbanana at 9:34 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kervorkian's hypocrisy lay not in his decisions regarding his own end of life, but in his failure to adhere to his own (fairly well-thought-out) standards, and in the cavalier attitude he displayed towards choices he himself argued should be carefully made.

So, yeah: Hypocrit.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2011


Bullshit.
posted by Dumsnill at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Biglankybastard,

He was hardly a hypocrite, and it is bullshit what you say.
posted by handbanana at 9:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kervorkian's hypocrisy lay not in his decisions regarding his own end of life, but in his failure to adhere to his own (fairly well-thought-out) standards, and in the cavalier attitude he displayed towards choices he himself argued should be carefully made.

So, yeah: Hypocrit.


Judging someone by their own standards when you morally disagree with them is the only hypocrisy here.
posted by Brian B. at 9:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since I was 10 years old, I have watched every single member of my immediate family die in a variety of ways: my grandfather dying slowly and painfully over months in the hospital; my father taking his own life in our garage after a terrible and life-shattering diagnosis; my grandmother dying slowly and with great mental and emotional distress for years and fucking years in our home, with constant heroic measures taken to save her life against her express wishes; and my mother, who, with hospice assistance, decided to end her fight against cancer peacefully and (I believe) painlessly at home in her bed, surrounded by loved ones.

There is no way on earth anyone will ever convince me that the latter choice is anything but the kindest and most humane way to leave this earth, and anyone who works through advocacy or legislation to take away this choice is a fucking disgrace to the human race. Whatever Kevorkian's personal flaws were, he helped people who were in tremendous pain to free themselves from that pain, and that is A Good Thing.
posted by elizardbits at 9:49 AM on June 3, 2011 [20 favorites]


A hero. I'm very grateful for his work.
posted by scody at 9:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by ChrisR at 9:58 AM on June 3, 2011


.

When it comes to end of life decisions, I'm partial to the old classics. When I start hearing the call, I intend to just walk into the woods and never come back. However, should I be incapacitated, I find it reassuring to think someone will be there to help me with a chemical equivalent.

Dr. Kevorkian was proof that you don't have to be nice to be compassionate.
posted by Freyja at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Assisted suicide' is such a harsh term to use for what Kevorkian did.

And, seriously. Please don't throw yourself in front of a train. It's a fucking terrible experience for the train driver and rescue crew. We pull mangled bodies out from beneath Metro trains with alarming frequency. Very few of them actually die.
posted by schmod at 10:04 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


I always appreciated his goals and fortitude, but had know clue until now that "his critics and supporters generally agree on this: As a result of his stubborn and often intemperate advocacy for the right of the terminally ill to choose how they die, hospice care has boomed in the United States, and physicians have become more sympathetic to their pain and more willing to prescribe medication to relieve it." That's pretty fantastic on its own. I'm happy he took the actions he did so that we all might rest a little easier.

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posted by mapinduzi at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by kimdog at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by heatvision at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2011


Judging someone by their own standards when you morally disagree with them is the only hypocrisy here.

I don't agree with BigLankyBastard re. condemnation of Kevorkian, but I don't think this is what he's claiming: I think he's claiming that Kevorkian set standards for obtaining consent and determining intent that he did not live up to. From what I've read, that's not very much in dispute -- the question seems to be, did he let passion for his cause lead him to convince people who weren't ready. I don't think that's a provable/disprovable claim at this point.
posted by lodurr at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2011


However, with numerous articles out there regarding the ageing population, the pension burdens that they are creating - let's be aware that some corporate entities would save a heck of a lot of money if they could get away with withdrawing care from the most vulnerable under the pretext of 'reducing their suffering'

If? What if would that be? We in the US already ration care via price and scarcity. Corporate entities in the insurance business already withdraw care - via lifetime and annual caps, thankfully being banned by the ACA - in the name of saving money.

There is no if here, just as preventing people access to painless ways to end their own life does not keep people from suicide. I am skeptical that any financial gains in this arena would be statistically significant. But even if they are, the fact that there might be some financial gain to corporations if there were these avenues doesn't mean they should be precluded.
posted by phearlez at 10:30 AM on June 3, 2011


For me, he was a hero. I've watched several people die, horrible, painful, humiliating, lingering deaths. I will not bankrupt my family to spend a year or two or ten while the totality of my life is measured in the weight of collective bags of shit. It's not how I want to live or die, it's not how I want to be remembered by those who love me, and it's nobody else's fucking business but mine. And as someone who's been in constant pain for the last decade, I reserve the right to pick my own time and place when I damn well feel like it, and anybody who thinks that's a selfish or cowardly act can kiss my lillywhite ass.

Rest in peace, Jack. You gave me hope.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [21 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:38 AM on June 3, 2011


Well said its raining, I am in complete ageement with you.
posted by handbanana at 10:47 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by liza at 10:54 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:02 AM on June 3, 2011


I grew up w/a pro-life activist mother, hence I should've been very anti-Kevorkian. But I heard an interview with him when I was in H.S. and I recall very vividly thinking "this guy makes sense".

The hitler/genocide/deadbabies/forcedmurder thing was a joke, and I'm glad to say I'm pro-choice in birth and pro-choice in death.

Thanks Dr. Kevorkian.
posted by symbioid at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It is a right that you should have the choice. It will be well controlled by medical people, I guarantee that."

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posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:07 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm completely unconcerned with whether "[Dr. Kevorkian] let passion for his cause lead him to convince people who weren't ready".

Firstly, anyone contacting him had themselves almost completely convinced already.

Secondly, there were an awful lot of needlessly painful deaths that led him there. If he fucked up a couple once society pushed him into the activist role, so what? That's society's fault for not dealing with the issues sooner, including providing/requiring second & third opinions.

How many such mistakes get made by other doctors unwilling to see people suffer but also unwilling to play activist? You'll prevent that error only by legalizing assisted suicide under tight AMA & APA guidance.

There is nothing wrong with suicide being both an inalienable human right and a public health crisis. That's exactly the sort of subtlety doctors can & will sort out though public discussion, but which creates problems as a series of one off hidden decisions.

I'd trust the AMA & APA regulating this far more than I'd trust Christian lunatics like Rick Santorum to wash bed sheets.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by lapolla at 11:15 AM on June 3, 2011


Don't get me wrong, I occasionally get annoyed with people who scream about their human rights being violated when they get ticketed for parking on the sidewalk. But if the right to end your own life isn't included in the set of basic human rights, I don't know what would be.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


That sidewalk had it coming, man!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2011


sgt.serenity I agree that the temptation of for profit health insurance to use assisted suicide as a vehicle for killing off expensive patients is a serious concern.

Unfortunately they're already killing off expensive patients via rescission and other practices.

Other than killing off for profit health insurance I'm not sure what a decent solution to the problem is.
posted by sotonohito at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by heyho at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2011


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posted by jeremy b at 12:04 PM on June 3, 2011


Saying one thing, and then doing the opposite is the definition of Hypocrisy. I have yet to see anyone argue that Kervorkian was anything other than irregular in his adherence to his publicly stated principles. Until those facts are refuted, his hypocrisy is NOT bullshit but an unfortunate fact.

Judging someone by their own standards when you morally disagree with them is the only hypocrisy here.

A) Hypocrisy is hypocrisy regardless of who points it out.
B) I am on the record IN THIS THREAD as a supporter of the RTD movement. I only morally disagree with Kervorkian's cavalier actions, not his public positions.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:05 PM on June 3, 2011


.


I hope I can go out like Edward G. Robinson did in "Soylent Green."
posted by digsrus at 12:15 PM on June 3, 2011


.

When my mother heard this on the news -- a quick sound bite -- she was quite disappointed that they didn't tell us how he died. I mean, often that would be irrelevant, but I think it's the first question a lot of people have about Kevorkian.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2011


Jack Kevorkian afforded others to die the way they wanted to and he was able to die the way he wanted to. Not a hypocrite. A hero.


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posted by Sophie1 at 12:23 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I asked my friend to help me place a period for the man:

.

See, was that so hard? Sometimes we need help with important aspects of our lives. Dr. Kevorkian had the courage to help when others didn't dare do it, or wouldn't do it openly. Hope to god that he had the chance to give someone a nod or gesture at the end, to tell them it was OK and that he was ready. Because we all should be able to make that choice.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:37 PM on June 3, 2011


So a nurse gives a relative a giant morphine boost to, ah; so to speak ~send them on their way~ from a painful bout of internal organ rot via cancer.

Yeah, Kavorkian; what a barbaric individual...

Passing thought from thinking about Kavorkians own passing; he should have done a PPV and done a cash in as he offed himself. Off shore account; and he would have left some fundage for the pursuit of humanely ending terminal suffering via self-determination.

posted by buzzman at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2011


I only morally disagree with Kervorkian's cavalier actions, not his public positions.

If that was all you were advocating then nobody would be arguing with you. Most of us I have noticed acknowledge that he was imperfect, possibly profoundly so. What kicked this all off was your statement:
He seems to have used the Right-to-die movement as cover in his bid kill a large number of people, many of whose circumstances were at worst at right angles to the types of cases that many of you are bringing up, and at best were far too poorly researched and far to briefly considered by Kervorkian prior to his administering lethal injections.

He's not a hero, and the RTD movement should not be made to suffer by association with his apparent crimes.
You've not only said he's not a hero - which I say someone can be even with serious flaws and blind spots - you've essentially called him a serial killer. I say that's over-reach and pretty well everyone else here seems to think so too.

You imply he was overall harmful to the RTD movement, which he may well have been if you define it as narrowly as you have. Not all of us agree with your stated beliefs - though you seem to state them more as facts than opinions - about where the line should be drawn.

As far as hypocrisy on Kevorkian's part I really don't care too much from the perspective of thinking he did good overall. But I think you can make the case (as I thought someone did above but a quick scan doesn't reveal it to me) that what Kevorkian believed would be a good overall public policy wasn't necessarily what he himself felt beholden to, perhaps because he wasn't currently living within the societal and legal structure that would protect him and his patients if he honored that structure.

Or if we want to use imprecise analogies, I'm opposed to citizens using deadly force against others unless absolutely necessary. But if you strand me and a raving mad cannibal in the middle of the forest I might not stop at restraint when protecting myself from him. Not because my position about human life has changed but because I am currently in circumstances that don't allow me access to any of the civil remedies.

Kevorkian advocated for that more precise world but he didn't get to live in it. Perhaps his hypocrisy was a reflection of that reality. Or maybe he was a self-aggrandizing narcissistic bastard. I still call him hero. You're free to disagree.
posted by phearlez at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by exlotuseater at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2011


I remember Timothy Leary being behind his work and also wanting him to have a better wardrobe : )

I don't intend for this to sound disrespectful.

I have worked with a very strong willed Armenian man. Many people find him offensive, abrasive and in your face. At times I have also. I have also seen how compassionate and giving this man can be. A friend once told me, 'Armenians are very protective of their tribe" (understandable with past genocide). Once you become a friend though you are family for life.

RIP Doc. You done good!
posted by goalyeehah at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2011


I am on the record IN THIS THREAD as a supporter of the RTD movement. I only morally disagree with Kervorkian's cavalier actions, not his public positions.

Apparently, you feel it's better to kill oneself without seeking medical assistance. That's hypocritical, if not the most cavalier attitude on human suffering in this thread. It's also an attitude firmly rooted in traditions of shame and humiliation. I think most of us know which social institutions officially sponsor shame and humiliation.
posted by Brian B. at 1:26 PM on June 3, 2011


Brian B. your entire statement is absurd. I did not even imply endorsement of suicide by the methods named or any other method. I invite you to read and absorbe my remarks about suicide being a public health crisis. Others have endorsed suicide as a general solution and absolute right. I have been consistent in my stand that end-of-life decisions must be made calmly and carefully.

Kervorkian, in his failure to adhere to the best stated standards of the RTD movement, or even his own rules of procedure, became the very figure opponents of the RTD most feared. Because of his actions, intelligent people of good will had a living example of their best arguments against RTD laws: Human fallibility and arrogance.

"Look!" cried RTD opponents, "Even their leading advocate cannot resist the temptation to administer death without any of the protections and processes they claim to hold dear!" Yes, his actions stirred a long-overdue national discussion. But his crimes strengthened the hand of those who feared that no human agency could ever properly regulate assisted suicide, and sufficiently prevent inevitable abuses. Family members or caretakers hastening their sick relative into the grave, for instance. Apathetic or overworked doctors failing to ensure that other measures (proper pain management, or counseling, or antidepressants, for instance) had been exhausted or even attempted. His lack of diligence may have led to all of these nightmare scenarios, and his insistence on substituting his own judgement for the strict adherence to important protocols only weakened the arguments being advanced in favor of the RTD.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 2:57 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I invite you to read and absorbe my remarks about suicide being a public health crisis.

Do you mean this one?

It's a fucking public health crisis.

I addressed that. The reason suicide is a crisis in the first place is because young people resort to it out of a sense of having no control over their lives, as there is no reason for it. That's opposite the reason a terminally ill older person would do it for. They typically don't want to be a financial disaster to their families while in a coma or worse. It's common sense to most people who aren't lost in some theosophical maze on the subject which has to be discussed with fear and trembling, if at all.
posted by Brian B. at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2011


I hope I can go out like Edward G. Robinson did in "Soylent Green."

Hearing that Kevorkian went out to Bach (while EGR's character went out to some medley of classical songs), this is exactly what I thought of also.

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posted by King Bee at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2011


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posted by c13 at 6:34 PM on June 3, 2011


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posted by trip and a half at 6:55 PM on June 3, 2011


Kevorkian's

defunct

who used a Thanatraon or

Mercitron

and broke onetwothreefourfive lawsjustlikethat

Jesus



he was a daring man

and what i want to know is

how do you like your browneyed boy

Mister Death
posted by nickyskye at 7:21 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by fido~depravo at 7:39 PM on June 3, 2011


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posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2011


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posted by phrits at 7:55 PM on June 3, 2011


When my grandmother died, in the early 80s, the doctor refused any measure to let her die with any form of dignity or grace. She was not going to recover, she was in agony, and due to her alzheimers, she had no idea where she was or why, let alone who we were. My mother had to fight to be allowed to turn off the ventilator, and when she finally won that fight, the doctor refused to be the one to do it, and my mother had to do it herself.

When my father died, just two summers ago, the surgeons did their best to keep him alive, but he was in poor health, and his condition deteriorated so rapidly that we were all stunned. The doctors sat with us and explained very clearly (and compassionately) what options we had in front of us. Option 1 was doing several more surgeries, any one of which could kill him, and even if 'successful' they gave him less than a 1% chance of any kind of recovery. The most likely outcome was that he would be on a ventilator for up to three more months before he died. Three more months of being so heavily sedated that he would have no idea where he was or what was happening.

Option two, they said, was to give him enough morphine to make him comfortable, and to turn off the life support. They were kind, but firm, saying that if we wanted, they would perform the surgeries, but that we needed to think about the quality of life that he would have, and the duration.

In roughly 30 years, in my own family, we've gone from fighting doctors for the right to die to being grateful that the doctors are there to help us help our loved ones go in as peaceful a way as possible. Kervorkian deserves some credit for helping to bring the right to die into the national conversation. Yes, doctors helped patients end their own lives before Kervorkian, and some of them were prosecuted for it. It's not perfect yet, but it's a damn sight better than it was.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:06 PM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


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I support Kevorkian and the assisted suicide movement.
I will also fight like hell to keep my clinically depressed friends and relatives from killing themselves. Those are two separate issues.
The last story in Stephen King's Night Shift is told from the POV of somebody trying to decide whether to euthanize a relative. It's harrowing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:33 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by biochemicle at 5:06 AM on June 4, 2011


I Did Know Jack...
posted by stp123 at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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