Politics & Prejudices
The meaning of Dr. K.
The crank who made us rethink how lives should end
Published: June 8, 2011
But the prosecutor noted: "Prisoners don't usually get to hold press conferences." Away from the cameras, Jack Kevorkian was soon forgotten. After Sept. 11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, death-on-demand didn't seem quite as sexy. By the time his new lawyer, Mayer Morgenroth, negotiated his release eight years later, Kevorkian had been largely forgotten.
Yet that doesn't mean he didn't have an impact. Washington and Oregon have legalized limited forms of physician-assisted death. Doctors are more sensitive to pain management issues than they were before Dr. Death came on the scene.
Awareness of and financial support for the hospice movement was given a big, if unintentional, boost by Kevorkian, if only because it seemed to many a far better choice than dying in a rusty van.
The problem he forced us to focus on hasn't gone away. Medical science is still prolonging the existence of many for whom life is a living hell. I asked Kevorkian long ago if he thought assisted suicide would ever be fully legal. "Yes, but not for the right reasons.
"You are a baby boomer, right? There are 70 million of you, and far fewer in the next generation. They aren't going to pay two-thirds of their salaries to keep you on machines and tubes."
Yes, Kevorkian was an often unlovely crank.
But he wasn't always wrong.
Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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