Compassionate Murder — Not Measuring Up to Jack Kevorkian’s Standards

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Compassionate Murder — Not Measuring Up to Jack Kevorkian’s Standards Email this article
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by Laura Echevarria Opinon Columnist
June 8, 2007 Note: Laura Echevarria is the former Director of Media Relations and a spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee and has been a radio announcer, freelance writer active in local politics. She is a new opinion columnist for

It is estimated that Jack Kevorkian has played a role in 130 assisted suicides, yet, not once, has he shown remorse for his actions.

He showed no remorse Sunday night during his interview with Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes. Wallace, as bioethicist Wesley Smith notes, is a supporter of assisted suicide and actually hugged Kevorkian when the CBS crew met “Dr. Death” upon his release from prison (although this moment wasn’t shown by 60 Minutes). During the interview, Wallace threw softballs at Kevorkian until about two-thirds of the way through when Kevorkian asked Wallace to “strafe” him or get tough.

Kevorkian showed no remorse when Wallace asks him if he regretted helping Tom Youk (who had Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Kevorkian replies, “No, why would I regret that? That’s like asking a veterinarian, ‘Do you regret helping that person’s animal.’”

Wallace replies, “Well, wait a minute. Tom Youk was a man. And it was compassionate murder, but you murdered him.”

To which, Kevorkian answers, “But it was a man whose life didn’t measure up anymore. You know, David Hume said it, ‘No man ever threw away a life while it was worth keeping.’”

Compassionate murder? (Well, there’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.)

A man whose life didn’t measure up anymore?

Remorse? No, never. But why start now.

Kevorkian showed no remorse even after it became known in 2001 that 75 percent of his patients were not “terminally ill.” Of 69 patients who were known to have been assisted directly by Jack Kevorkian, only 17 were found to be terminally ill. According to a letter reporting on the study to the New England Journal of Medicine, the other 52 patients had deteriorating health but none were terminally ill.

Kevorkian showed no remorse for leaving the bodies of “patients” in undignified locations: whether lying in a hotel room bed or in the the back of a vehicle left in the parking lot of a local police station or morgue. The body of Jeremy Allen went unclaimed for almost two months before a group from Massachusetts provided a funeral.

Kevorkian ignored court orders to stop participating in suicides. In 1997, six years after having his medical license revoked, the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services, which regulates physicians, issued a “cease and desist” order to stop Kevorkian from presenting himself as physician. Kevorkian showed no remorse and instead used a cigarette lighter to set the order on fire in front of news cameras.

In a 1994 trial, Kevorkian showed no remorse when his attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, presented the scientifically implausible argument that the carbon monoxide used to kill thirty-year-old Thomas Hyde (diagnosed with ALS) was intended to relieve pain not to kill. The jurors bought the argument and Kevorkian was acquitted.

In a 1996 trial, the jury found Kevorkian not guilty by using an exemption in Michigan law that protects doctors using medication to relieve pain. The jury concluded that Kevorkian was not trying to cause death.

In Kevorkian’s third trial, he showed up wearing colonial-era garb in protest of the “medieval” charges. Again, the jury acquitted Kevorkian believing that his intent was to relieve pain and not kill.

In 1997, Kevorkian certainly showed no remorse when he announced that he would begin harvesting organs and doing experiments on the bodies of his assisted suicide clients.

He showed no remorse even when the medical examiner said that the body of Joseph Tushkowski, 45, of Las Vegas, Nevada, had been mutilated. Kevorkian had harvested the kidneys of Tushkowski and his public relations gamble to offer them for organ donation failed.

In 1998, the body of Roosevelt Dawson, 21, was found in an apartment. He was a paraplegic and had been released from a nursing home. The home had tried to get a court order to hold him involuntarily but was unsuccessful. According to the Nightingale Alliance, a pro-life resource on euthanasia and assisted suicide, Kevorkian spoke with Dawson for only a few minutes before assisting in his suicide.

It wasn’t until CBS’s 60 Minutes airing of the tape showing the active euthanasia of Tom Youk that Kevorkian was convicted. He was shown injecting Youk with Seconal to render him unconscious, then with a drug to paralyze him (so he couldn’t breathe) and then with potassium chloride to stop his heart. Kevorkian was using Youk as the test case in his pursuit to legalize active euthanasia for people who asked for it. He was charged with three felony accounts and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kevorkian’s release from prison may or may not be helpful to the pro-death community because of Kevorkian’s unpredictability. Regardless, it is troubling that he is received with open arms—literally in Mike Wallace’s case—and is seen as a hero among some.

Kevorkian is barred from participating in any suicides as part of his probation and has promised to abide by this condition.

However, toward the end of 1993, Kevorkian had promised then to work within the system and vowed not to participate in anymore suicides. This promise didn’t last long. In 1994, after having spent a good part of the year in court, Kevorkian claimed to have attended the suicide of Margaret Garish—marking only his 21st suicide.

We all make promises. If I promise to pick up the dry-cleaning, however, and don’t follow through, my husband may not have a starched shirt for work. If Kevorkian breaks his promise, someone (maybe many someones) will die.