by Ed Rivet
On June 4, 1990, Jack Kevorkian took the life of Janet Adkins. Nearly six years later, in the middle of his third trial for assisted suicide, Kevorkian assisted in his 28th killing – a Canadian man with Multiple Sclerosis. The odyssey he has led Michigan on holds a lesson for all of us in the pro-life movement. Despite his being “officially” shunned by organized medicine and pro-euthanasia groups, he still carries the same message that alleged mainstream euthanasia advocates are constantly spinning.
Kevorkian’s actions led the Michigan Board of Medicine to revoke his medical license. That’s why his last 26 suicides have used carbon monoxide – he no longer has access to lethal medications. His activities eventually led the Michigan Legislature to pass a temporary ban on assisted suicide, and to set up a commission to study the issue. He and other euthanasia proponents brought constitutional challenges against these restrictions all the way to the US Supreme Court. The courts sustained both the Legislature’s ban and Michigan’s common law prohibiting assisted suicide.
But prosecutions under both the statute and the common law have ended in acquittals. It is the reasons for these acquittals to which pro-lifers must be attuned. Kevorkian and his attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, are fear mongers. They exploit the prevailing fear most people have of a future death that is pain-racked, excessively high-tech and stripped of dignity. “But fear not,” Kevorkian says, “I have the compassionate, humane answer to your fears.” As an added bonus, he is able to appeal to Americans’ self-centered, rugged individual mind-set. “This is about choosing for yourself.” As with abortion, we hear the tiring lines, “It is my body, my choice. No one, especially the government, is going to tell me what I’m going to do with my body.”
There are actually silver linings in Kevorkian’s activities. He is the personification of two of pro-life’s strongest counter arguments. The first is about power. Euthanasia advocates spin the line that this is about “personal choice,” and “patient autonomy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This is about taking patients’ control from them and giving doctors the power to kill. Kevorkian has received requests from virtually hundreds of people for suicide assistance. Why have only 28 died in six years? Who selected the 28? And who had the power to make those selections? We pro-lifers needn’t spend a lot of time talking about Jack Kevorkian himself. We do need to talk about what he personifies: the power to kill in the hands of the doctor.
Kevorkian also demonstrates the slippery slope of who will die. Approximately half of Kevorkian’s victims had a “terminal” illness, namely cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The other half were not terminal at all. They had Multiple Sclerosis, emphysema, arthritis, heart conditions, etc. To convince people that euthanasia will spread beyond those who are near death, we can simply show them Kevorkian’s track record to demonstrate that this has already been accomplished. This can be done before you even mention the infanticide that is now going on in the Netherlands in the name of compassion.
For now, it appears that Kevorkian has free rein to continue killing. Because he has cleverly learned not to leave behind evidence of his killing, it will be nearly impossible to ever charge him again. There simply is not enough physical evidence.
He will be looking to set up his “obitorium” soon with the $20,000 grant he received from the California-based Sovereign Fund. No one can guess how high the body count will go before he is finally stopped. There will come a day, however, when he will take his actions too far. Justice and truth have a way of prevailing in the end. We must remain diligent in spreading the truth and fighting for justice.
Ed Rivet is the Legislative Director for Right to Life of Michigan and served on the Michigan Commission on Death and Dying