I was stunned to see so many glowing "odes" to Dr. Jack Kevorkian on the occasion of his death June 3 and in the days that followed. From newspaper stories and columns to Facebook status updates and links, there was a steady stream of praise for the man known as "Dr. Death."
Finally, today, on the New York Times op-ed page, Ross Douthat offers a much-needed cold, hard look at Dr. Kevorkian's legacy:
If participating in a suicide is legally and ethically acceptable, in other words, it can’t just be because cancer is brutal and dementia is dehumanizing. It can only be because there’s a right to suicide.
And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest? A cancer patient’s suffering isn’t necessarily more unbearable than the more indefinite agony of someone living with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia or manic depression. And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson’s disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?
This isn’t a hypothetical slippery slope. Jack Kevorkian spent his career putting this dark, expansive logic into practice. He didn’t just provide death to the dying; he helped anyone whose suffering seemed sufficient to warrant his deadly assistance. When The Detroit Free Press investigated his “practice” in 1997, it found that 60 percent of those he assisted weren’t actually terminally ill. In several cases, autopsies revealed “no anatomical evidence of disease.”
Sixty percent were not terminally ill. That's a shocking figure, one that should make all those folks praising Kevorkian as some sort of humanitarian or civil rights crusader take a step back and rethink what his campaign for assisted suicide was really all about. Dying with dignity had nothing to do with it.
Read the full column HERE.