Skip to content

Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Jun 16 / Josh Chacko

Dr Kevorkian = A champion of Medical Ethics

On June 3rd, 2011, the controversial pathologist and right to die activist, Dr. Jacob “Jack” Kevorkian, passed away in Beaumont Hospital located in Royal Oak, Michigan.  Known to the public as “Dr. Death”, Kevorkian was heavily criticized by the public for his stances on euthanasia.  Despite the backlash he recieved from many “pro-life” activists who claim “euthanasia is murder” without any evidence to support that statement, Dr Kevorkian was a courageous champion of medical ethics.  One cannot help but admire a man who stood up for REAL principles.

Allow me to give you a background on Dr Kevorkian’s controversial life.  During the 1980’s, Kevorkian wrote a series of articles in the German language medical journal Medicine and Law where he laid out his thoughts on the issue of euthanasia.  As you might have imagined, Kevorkian was a staunch supporter of the individual’s right to die.  Not only did he support euthanasia but Dr.Kevorkian advertised for “death counseling” in Detroit newpapers.  Kevorkian had even designed and constructed a device that deliver euthanizing drugs through an IV.  Kevorkian cleverly called this device “the Thanatron” (Death Machine).  Under Kevorkian’s compassionate yet debatable practice terminated the lives of 130 patients.   Unfortunately, this practice got Kevorkian into legal trouble.   The pathologist served 8 years in prison for second degree murder (a charge he did not deserve) before he was released in 2007 assuming he would not offer suicide advice to anyone. 

You, as readers, may be wondering why would I admire a man responsible for 130 deaths?  Don’t I care about life?  Well I do however, I believe life isn’t the worst thing a person could lose.  It’s not worse than losing one’s honor or one’s dignity.  Its not worse than losing one’s freedom or sense of personal responsibity.  When an individual seeks euthanasia services, the reason is due to his terminal illness.  The doctors have determined it is inevitable that he/s will die.  Therefore, the terminally ill individual has a choice.  He/s can either be hooked up to various devices in the medical facility, slowing dying while suffering from excutiating pain and agony or he/s can have a medical doctor inject euthanisitic drugs into his body system where he/s would die quickly and painlessly.   I’m sure many of you readers would have chose the latter choice.  To choose euthanasia would enable one to die with a shred of dignity.  Contrary to popular opinion, to choose the former choice (slowing dying in pain) is more malevolent and less compassionate. 

Unfortunately, our 21st century is still heavily influenced by religious groups advocating adequated moral ideals from the bronze age.    Many clergymen (especially Catholic priests) condemn Dr Kevorkian’s practice claiming it undermined “God’s greatest gift”.  Worse, the opinions of these clergymen (and they are nothing more than mere opinions)  influence the way medicine is practiced today in our country.  Many medical doctors refuse to give euthanasitic advice because they fear legal action and religious backlash.

   During Jack Kevorkian’s interview with talk show host Bill Maher, Kevorkian states that doctors today are ignoring the hippocratic oath that every medical graduate must recite.  Not offering a patient a chance to die with a  shred of dignity is contrary to medical ethics.  The only well-known doctor to have stood up for medical ethic despite public criticism was Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  He is ideal medical doctor that all medical/health care students should aspire to.