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Monday, June 04, 2007

"Dr. Death" Out of Jail

I watched "60 Minutes" tonight and caught Mike Wallace's interview with Jack Kevorkian a.k.a. "Dr. Death," the retired pathologist and physician-assisted suicide advocate who had been just released from prison after serving part of a sentence for helping a 52-year-old man with ALS, Tom Youk, commit suicide.

I'm glad that Dr. Kevorkian has been released, as I see nothing wrong with what he did. A man with a terminal illness and of sound mind wanted to die and couldn't do it by himself.

I don't feel as if I'm suffering -- Duchenne's isn't a painful disease and I'm still able to be productive, so I would not want to end my life. But if I did, I feel that I should have that right -- even though I would physically be unable to do it myself.

Like Dr. Kevorkian, I would like to see physician-assisted suicide legalized for consenting adults. Safeguards should be in place so that someone who is depressed does not his/her a life. Doctors should be consulted because, as Dr. Kevorkian says in the interview, only they would know if a person is depressed.

One point raised by Wallace is that some other people with ALS have equated Dr. Kevorkian's helping Mr. Youk take his life to implying that they, too, should kill themselves. I couldn't disagree more. No one is saying their lives should be ended; one man with the disease said he'd prefer not to continue with his life. It was one man's decision and should be respected even by those who disagree.

Incidentally, a great film -- and true story -- on this issue is "The Sea Inside," about a paralyzed man who wants help to die. I didn't personally agree with his reasons for wanting to die, but I respected his right to do so. Who am I to decide whether his life was worth continuing?

Back to Dr. Kevorkian, The only thing I had a problem with was when he said in the interview that he admires those with ALS "who go on suffering without complaining and want to..." I doubt that everyone with ALS thinks he or she is suffering.

Still, even though Dr. Kevorkian, as a condition of his parole is not allowed to help people die, I sincerely hope he continues to advocate for physician-assisted suicide, as I suspect that a great many Americans support it, even if they're uncomfortable admitting it.

*(click here instead for text version)

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