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Medicine The Courts Science

Jack Kevorkian Dead at 83 184

theodp writes "Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist said to have had a role in more than 130 assisted suicides, has died from kidney-related complications on the eve of the 21st anniversary of his first assisted suicide. Kevorkian, who served more than eight years in prison for second-degree murder, had his story told in the HBO movie You Don't Know Jack. His antics and personality brought a certain approachability to a grim subject — the fundamental right of terminally ill patients to choose to die. 'I will debate so-called ethicists,' he once said. 'They are not even ethicists. They are propagandists. I will argue with them if they will allow themselves to be strapped to a wheelchair for 72 hours so they can't move, and they are catheterized and they are placed on the toilet and fed and bathed. Then they can sit in a chair and debate with me.' RIP, Dr. Jack."
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Jack Kevorkian Dead at 83

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 04, 2011 @09:27AM (#36336710)

    while his response was a little crude i have to agree with MRe_nl. It is not nearly as bad as you make out to be. The link to google shows only hits taken from a daily telegraph paper which quotes statements of a British researcher of a pressure group opposed to euthanasia and of course the unbiased religious groups ( I know we are the Sodom and Gomorrah). While it is true that around 6,000 people carry anti-euthanasia cards this is a minor group, such as the group which stipulated they do want to be euthanised in certain cases. Elderly people are not afraid to go to the doctor. That is just the sensation-seeking statement of Mr Fitzpatrick of pressure group Not Dead Yet, who isn't cited as having done actual research in any of the articles.

    As to palliative care being dismantled, You are right. But that is not because doctors go around killing patients by the hundreds, it is because every aspect of health-care is being dismantled. Something about the retreat of the welfare state, financial crisis, growing market incentives in health-care etc...

  • by ideonexus ( 1257332 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @09:28AM (#36336714) Homepage Journal

    "God Bless You Doctor Kevorkian" is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's book of the same title. In that book Vonnegut, an atheist, explains how at a meeting of the American Humanist Society, after Isaac Asimov's death, he started a speech there with "Isaac Asimov is in heaven now, God rest is soul." which got a huge laugh from the assembly of atheists.

    So it's not an actual religious statement, but a semi-farcical one, acknowledging that we atheists do seem to be at a loss for words when it comes to comforting and consoling people over the recently departed. I try to focus on what a miracle it was that we get to experience the wonder of existence at all--statistically speaking. But I was at a complete loss for words when my friend's wife accidentally backed over their son playing in the driveway. What can an spiritual naturalist say to someone when confronted with that? Religion has it easy, they just say the child is in a better place. I don't know what we have... and until we have something, religion wins.

    Kevorkian led a long life in service of a greater good. What do you propose we as empiricists, spiritual naturalists, rationalists (call us anything other than the unscientific word "atheist" that defines us in a religious context) say to honor the dead and comfort the living? I'm genuinely curious.

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @11:13AM (#36337122)

    Did he promote euthenasia, or choice of euthenasia?

    Both, and much more.....

    Dr. Kevorkian’s views on euthanasia do not stop at “planned death,” but build to an ultimate conclusion. This is probably best expressed in the articles he has written over the years for the professional journal, Medicine and Law. In 1986 he wrote on human experimentation:

    The so-called Nuremberg Code and all its derivatives completely ignore the extraordinary opportunities for terminal experimentation on humans facing imminent and inevitable death. . . . Intense emotionalism engendered by the concentration camp atrocities of World War II has unfairly stigmatized this honorable concept and cloaked it in silence. . . .

    . . . Now that the benumbed sense of objective appraisal manifested by the Nuremberg judges has begun to wear off, at last it is conceded that they were wrong in concluding that nothing of value resulted from the illegal experiments. . . . The data are all the more valuable because similar human experiments can never again be done. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that a few of the medical criminals did the right thing (extraction of positive gain from inevitably total loss otherwise beyond their influence) but in the wrong way (without concern over consent or anesthesia) and in the wrong setting (created by the evil “laws” of a diabolical dictator.)[1]

    At the end of his article, Kevorkian offers a bioethical “Code of Conduct” for “any professional or lay individual in any way participating in experimentation on human beings facing undeniably imminent and inevitable death.”

    C.(1). Experiments may be of any kind or complexity. . . . C.(2). While a prospective subject is fully conscious, an experimenter may start any procedure which on thorough analysis portends no significant distress for the subject. . . . C.(3). Induction and irreversible maintenance of at least stage III general anesthesia is imperative before experimentation is begun on the following prospective subjects: (a) All brain-dead, comatose, mentally incompetent, or otherwise completely uncommunicative individuals. (b) All neonates, infants, and children less than (-) years old (age must be arbitrarily set by consensus). (c) All living intrauterine and aborted or delivered fetuses. C.(4). If the subject’s body is alive at the end of experimentation, final biologic death may be induced by means of: (a) Removal of organs for transplantation. (b) A lethal dose of a new or untested drug. . . . (c) A lethal intravenous bolus of thiopental solution. . . .[2]

    Kevorkian’s research into human experimentation began while he was in the residency program at the University of Michigan, and eventually led to his removal from the program.

    “While I was in my residency I was researching the idea of condemned men being allowed to submit to anesthesia rather than execution. While under anesthesia we could do experiments from which they wouldn’t recover, and then remove their organs. Now if you needed a liver or a heart, would you like to see a young healthy man or woman fried in the electric chair? No! But that Dark Age school told me I would have to drop the project I was working on or leave. So I left, and spent my last two years of residency at Pontiac.” While an associate pathologist at Pontiac General Hospital Kevorkian ran into more trouble. As part of an experiment he transfused cadaver blood directly into several patients. Kevorkian’s actions shocked the U.S. medical community, but no legal action was taken against him.

    “All it involved was taking blood out of dead people who died suddenly and then transfusing it into living people just like regular blood. The Russians had been doing it for over half a century, but instead of transfusing it directly into a person, they would s

  • by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Saturday June 04, 2011 @03:20PM (#36337616) Homepage

    No, it is true. In the final stages of cancer the pain is so overwhelming that if you are conscious you are in pain, not matter what drugs are given to you. Horrible, life destroying pain with no end.You would have to administer a general anaesthesia to stop the pain, but then the person isn't living any ways.

    I sincerely hope you never learn the truth of this first hand, or due to a family member suffering so.

    Administering enough analgesics to kill the patient is euthanasia.

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @06:32PM (#36338546)

    The unreasonable part is that some moron can block my consent to such experiments. When did we redefine freedom as "what lawmakers decide".

    I think there is overlap with the ethics of selling human organs:

    Organ sales: Compromising ethics []

    What proponents of the selling of organs for transplant call a 'choice,' I call the right to be cruelly exploited. Democratic societies have always limited our ability to harm ourselves, hence, workplace safety, child labor, or minimum wage laws that forbid a 5-year-old to 'choose' to take a dangerous, low-paying job. (Even when someone faces dire poverty, we do not permit him to sell himself into slavery.) Similarly, the laws barring organ sales are intended to protect those who, out of economic desperation, would be harmed by those with more money.

    What's more, it is a highly dubious proposition that selling an organ offers even the very poor meaningful recourse. A few years after taking such a perilous step, the seller is apt to find himself in unchanged economic circumstances, albeit with one fewer kidney and the attendant health risks. There are better ways to respond to the problems of poverty than by expanding the opportunity for the rich to harvest the organs of the poor. And there are better ways to reduce the waiting list for kidney transplants: I particularly admired FL Delmonico's noting what preventive medicine can achieve.

    It is true that we need to expand the pool of organs available for transplant, but there are ways to do that without endangering the most vulnerable members of society. One plan would make the use of cadaveric organs routine, switching from the current opt-in system to allowing those folks with, for example, religious objections, to opt out. It is curious that those who resist such an approach show more concern for the sentiments of the dead than the health of the living.

    The Hidden Cost of Organ Sale []

    I assume you see nothing wrong with this, nobody in need of help? Three men charged in 'dungeon' castration []

    Laws establish limits, its been that way since before recorded history.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake