Chapter XXXI: who is leading us there?

Author:Fenigsen, Richard
Position:Other People's Lives: Reflections on Medicine, Ethics, and Euthanasia

The right-to-die movement, a great popular movement sweeping half the globe couldn't develop without organization, paid workers, newsletters, access to the media, PR specialists, traveling speakers, campaign headquarters active before every referendum, national and international congresses, (622) and very large donations. In the U.S., the organizations which promote assisted suicide receive money from George Soros' Open Society Institute, (623) the Columbia Foundation, Greenwall Foundation, Water & Ellis Haas, Nathan Cummings, Robert Wood Johnson, Fan Fox, and Leslie R. Samuels Foundations, and the extremely generous Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. (624)

Many capable and dedicated people are working for the movement's organizations, activists little known to the public. But the movement also needs prominent leaders able to catch popular imagination. Since these are the people who plan to lead us into the New Society, it may be useful to know who they are.

The Unemployed Pathologist. Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped more than 130 persons to commit suicide, gained enormous publicity through all media, won thousands of ardent supporters all over the U.S., and successfully fought several attempts to prosecute him--until the misstep of showing on "60 Minutes" the video showing him administering a lethal injection to a patient. This led to conviction and a jail sentence that prevented Dr. Kevorkian from continuing his activities.

Dr. Kevorkian was an ascetic figure. He was never married. Before his imprisonment he lived modestly on a social security check, in a basement, playing his flute. His doctor's licenses in Michigan and California were revoked, but even before that, he was unemployed. Trained as a pathologist, he never was a practicing physician. It is understandable, therefore, that he made mistakes, arranging for suicides of people who did not have the diseases he thought they had. (625)

A fixation on a single subject can be traced from the beginning of Dr. Kevorkian's career. As a young resident, he used to ask the hospital nurses to notify him whenever a patient was nearing death: he wanted to watch people's eyes at the moment of death.

Painting had been one of his hobbies, and on the paintings he exhibited there were broken human bones, dead people's skulls showing red tongues, skin peeling off of a head and hanging there, eyes protruding from the skulls' eye sockets. (626)

The American Medical Association and medical associations in most states prohibit doctors' involvement in executions, but in the articles Dr. Kevorkian published, he argued that it is the physicians' duty to administer lethal injections to persons condemned to death. (627) He proposed the option of death to all prisoners sentenced to long jail terms. (628) Other of Dr. Kevorkian's ideas are a macabre travesty of "utility ethics." He argued that medical experiments should be conducted on people sentenced to death, and organs or transplantation ought to be harvested before executions. (629) Also other people approaching unavoidable death, those who decide to commit suicide, or to undergo euthanasia, should not be wasted, but used for experiments and as a source of organs for transplantation. (630)

Dr. Kevorkian also announced that he would offer for transplantation the organs of people he was helping to die, (631) and on at least...

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