Debra J. Saunders

After participating in the assisted suicide of more than 130 people and being convicted in the 1998 second-degree murder of a 52-year-old man with Lou Gehrig's disease, Jack Kevorkian, 79, is scheduled to be paroled June 1.

Fans of Kevorkian ought to be asking themselves: In that the ailing Kevorkian is in worse physical shape than many of the people whose lives he helped snuff out, why hasn't the death doc used his vaunted "medicide" on himself?

Kevorkian's first victim, Janet Adkins, 54, had early Alzheimer's, but felt well enough to play tennis just days before her 1990 visit to Kevorkian's death mobile. Kevorkian explained that Adkins had "had a wonderful life, a good life, but the quality of her life was slipping away due to an incurable disease and she didn't want to suffer." It is an argument he would make again and again.

It's not as if Kevorkian is in tennis-playing shape. According to his lawyer, Kevorkian has suffered from high blood pressure, arthritis, hernias, hepatitis C, cataracts, heart and lung disease and vertigo. His mental state cannot be too sharp -- not when one of his appeals argued that he was represented by incompetent counsel -- himself.

Why, oh why, then should Kevorkian endure more suffering?

The thing is, Kevorkian never particularly cared about the suffering of the people he helped kill. He cared about killing.

Early in his career, Kevorkian dreamed up a plan to conduct invasive medical experiments on living beings. He focused on death-row inmates facing execution, as he argued that the best way to understand the "mechanisms of a criminal mind" was to study "all parts of the intact living brain." The world saw him for the twisted ghoul he was.

Only later did Kevorkian hit on assisted suicide for people who were ostensibly terminally ill. Many liked the idea of a doctor who would alleviate suffering for the sick and not inflict on unwilling patients more care than they wanted.

Supporters overlooked the fact that patients already have the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. They failed to notice that Kevorkian didn't offer pain control. They looked the other way when newspapers reported that some so-called patients -- including a depressed mother of two young daughters -- did not suffer from the illnesses they cited as the reason they wanted to die. Supporters did not want to know if the retired pathologist was a quack.

Kevorkian's acolytes saw only what they wanted to see -- sick adults who faced death without flinching.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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