American Proscenium

Serial Killer

The New York Times, in a 2,128-word obituary (nearly three times the length of this article), fondly recalled Jack Kevorkian as “A Doctor Who Helped End Lives.”  Kevorkian, 83, the Michigan pathologist turned assisted-suicide activist, died in a hospital, a more dignified locale than the 1960’s-era Volkswagen microbus where he uncorked the Thanatron, his suicide machine, dispensing a fatal chemical cocktail.  Kevorkian assisted in about 130 suicides—most of them women—from 1990 to 1998.  Kevorkian’s modus operandi was to leave the bodies in a public place; a telephone call to authorities would then lead to a macabre discovery and the media attention he craved.  Yet in the end, the media contributed to Kevorkian’s downfall.  In 1999 he was convicted of second-degree murder after sending CBS’s 60 Minutes a videotape that showed him killing a patient.  The tape aired on national TV, leading to the successful prosecution of Kevorkian and a 10-to-25-year prison sentence.  He was released in 2007 only after pledging not to assist in another suicide.

Kevorkian’s death was an occasion for secular editorialists to point out that assisted suicide is now legal in Oregon, Washington, and Montana.  Yet the practice remains illegal in Michigan, largely because of the unreported role of Catholic Democrats in that state’s legislature in the 1990’s. ...

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