KEVORKIAN: How Will Case Impact Mainstream Movement?
While it is unclear whether Dr. Jack Kevorkian's second-degree murder conviction will help or hurt the quest for legalized assisted suicide, many in the movement, somewhat surprisingly, expect it to help their cause, the New York Times reports. Compassion in Dying of Oregon Executive Director George Eighmey "said the conviction helped the mainstream wing of the movement because it came in a case of euthanasia," which his group and many others do not support. (In euthanasia, a third party induces death, whereas assisted suicide proponents advocate a completely patient-controlled termination.) Eighmey said, "We now know the unacceptable limits and we now, as a society, can move in the direction of those acceptable limits. ... Let's move in the direction of the more moderate Oregon model, instead of the Kevorkian model." Opponents of assisted suicide contended the Kevorkian case would turn the public against assisted suicide. "This is no win for them," said Dr. Gregory Hamilton, the president of an Oregon-based group called Physicians for Compassionate Care. "This gives a message to people in America that killing sick people is not the answer to life's problems, that it is appropriate to have laws against it and to punish the perpetrators of these crimes" (Belluck, 3/30). In related news, the Detroit Free Press reports that Mayer Morganroth, who represented Kevorkian in previous trials, will return to handle his appeal (Murphy, 3/30).
- Washington Post: Although the issue of "doctor-assisted suicide is, in general, a very difficult one of enormous moral complexity ... [t]he issue of Dr. Kevorkian in particular is not particularly complicated. This is a man who has aided in the deaths of many people whom he did not know and had not previously treated and whose mental competency to decide to die he was in no position to assess. ... This was the crudest kind of euthanasia, and to have treated it as less than wholly criminal would have been to sign off on the least accountable type of 'mercy killing.' Fortunately, a jury has finally drawn a line" (3/30).
- Albany Times Union: "Had he acted in Oregon, a state with an assisted suicide law, Dr. Kervorkian also would have faced prosecution, and rightly so. ... Dr. Kervorkian has treated the difficult issue of mercy killing in a casual, even celebratory, way. Oregon's law sends the opposite message -- that decisions of life and death must be made only as a last resort, and only with the utmost of care" (3/30).
- Dallas Morning News: "The Michigan jury adds a potentially pivotal voice to the nation's ongoing debate over the ethics of assisted suicide. With that voice, the jury firmly, and properly, concluded that assisted suicide is murder. That is a crucial conclusion for a nation that lives by laws designed to protect its weak and defenseless" (3/30).
- Bergen Record: "Life-and-death decisions should not be left to crusading, eccentric publicity seekers. The state of Oregon has tackled these questions and come up with strict laws to govern physician-assisted suicide. ... Patients suffering from horrific fatal diseases should be able to die on their own terms, and with as much pain relief as possible. But the process must be tightly monitored. Otherwise, Dr. Kevorkian and his ilk will be the ones to decide who dies -- and whether to videotape it for prime-time television. That's hardly death with dignity" (3/30).
- Boston Herald: "[T]his verdict does not resolve 'the most appropriate way to treat the terminally ill.' That hotly debated question will be settled through the democratic process, not by zealots following their own logic" (3/30).
- Omaha World-Herald: "Perhaps there is a case to be made for changing [assisted-suicide] law. But if that were so, the place to decide is in the legislature. That's where the will of the people is clarified and enacted. Kevorkian was operating as a renegade, an unelected policymaker on a matter of life and death. The end of his illegal 'practice' is long overdue" (3/30).
- Fayetteville Observer-Times: "Yes, Kevorkian has behaved badly. ... But at least Kevorkian had, in the beginning, a valid point: It should not be up to the state to decide how much pain a person must endure, how much hopeless struggle is enough, how much loss of function must be accepted, how much dependency tolerated. Those are personal choices" (3/30).
- Washington Post columnist Abigail Trafford: Kevorkian "served a purpose. He illuminated the terrible ways of dying in the United States and highlighted the real gaps in caring for people at the end of their lives." But he also "dominated the debate on dying, drowning out less inflammatory voices. ... The goal is to make death 'good' enough that checking in with Kevorkian will no longer be seen as necessary" (3/30).
- Syndicated columnist Bruce Hilton: "Dr. Kevorkian is a loose cannon, skidding across the deck and likely to cause as much harm as good. But after "a century in which talking about death was taboo, Dr. Kevorkian was the 'Bam!' that woke us up and started a national conversation. Every major social change seems to need a Kevorkian. It takes somebody with rough edges, brash and annoying and a little scary. They get our attention and they make us more ready to listen to the less abrasive advocates of their causes" (Scripps Howard/Nando Times, 3/30).