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Jack Kevorkian Was Irked by Law, Religion Blocking Assisted Suicide

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  • Jack Kevorkian
    (Photo: Reuters / Carlos Osario)
    Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian (C) walks out of Lakeland Correctional Facility with attorney Jeffrey Morganroth (R) and supporters Ruth Holms (L) and Sarah Tucker (R, back) in Coldwater, Michigan June 1, 2007.
By Nathan Black, Christian Post Reporter
June 3, 2011|3:31 pm

Jack Kevorkian wasn't a religious man by his own admission. Kevorkian didn't know whether he believed in God or if God even existed.

But what the now late pathologist, notorious for assisting in the suicides of 130 people, did feel about religion was that it was in his way of legalizing the controversial procedure.

"If the law stepped out of the picture, if religion stopped pushing this opposition, then we could do it like a regular medical procedure which it should be," Kevorkian told CNN in 2010.

Known as "Dr. Death," Kevorkian died Friday morning at age 83 in a Michigan hospital. He had been hospitalized for weeks with kidney and heart problems.

CNN released some videos of past interviews it had with Kevorkian. They provided more insight into the pathologist's values and beliefs.

His mention of religion as sort of his enemy in his advocacy to make physician assisted suicide legal brings to light the debate over end of life issues.

Order Online: Bioethics - A Primer for Christians

While Americans are nearly evenly split on whether doctor assisted suicide is morally acceptable, Christians largely oppose it.

The Christian Medical and Dental Associations affirms that "human life is a gift from God and is sacred because it bears God's image."

"Human life has worth because Christ died to redeem it, and it has meaning because God has an eternal purpose for it," its ethics statement reads.

Therefore, "we oppose active intervention with the intent to produce death for the relief of pain, suffering, or economic considerations, or for the convenience of patient, family, or society."

The group defines physician-assisted suicide as "when a physician helps a person take his or her own life by giving advice, writing a prescription for lethal medication, or assisting the individual with some device which allows the person to take his or her own life."

While proponents of doctor assisted suicide argue from the perspective of compassion, the group says avoiding suffering is not always the answer.

"Christians are indeed called upon to be compassionate and to relieve suffering, but not at any expense. If happiness were what life is all about, then suffering would be the ultimate evil to be avoided at all costs.

"Christian physicians and their patients will not find God s way by trying to avoid all suffering at any cost. They will find it by remaining true to God s biblically-revealed character and will, especially in the midst of suffering."

For Kevorkian, it was all about ending a patient's suffering.

The disease that the patient was suffering with did not necessarily have to be terminal, he said in a past interview with CNN. And he clarified that what he was helping with was not ending a life but ending suffering.

"I did it to end the suffering the patient's going through. What’s a doctor supposed to do? Turn his back?" he said. Those who do, he said, are cowards.

"The ultimate way to get rid of suffering ... is dying. That's the only way," he said.

When asked by CNN last year whether life is a gift, Kevorkian replied, "It's a gift? Who gives it to you? Your parents."

Though he is known as the doctor who helped many ill patients end their lives, he revealed that four out of five times, he would tell a patient "no."

But after consultation with the patient, evaluation of clinical records, and discussions with other doctors, Kevorkian would ultimately do what the patient wants.

Considering physician-assisted suicide is only legal in three states, Kevorkian had to think creatively to get around the law. His first assisted suicide procedure took place in a van with Janet Adkins who was 54. He said he tried nursing homes, churches, hospitals and clinics but said the police would have raided the places if he had the procedure done there.

What he used in the beginning was a "suicide machine" which would allow the patient to flip a switch and administer their own death since it was illegal for a doctor to do it.

His license was later pulled.

So he started using a gas device that is placed over a patient's head.

Then, he later administered the termination of a patient's life himself by injecting a lethal dose of potassium chloride into a patient suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease.

According to his interview with CNN, Kevorkian did it intentionally so that he could take the issue to court and try to change the laws.

"The law is cruel," he said. "They don't care about the patient. They care about the letter of the law."

He ended up serving prison time for eight years for second degree murder.

Pushing back against the claim that he's playing God, Kevorkian told CNN that all doctors play God.

"Anytime you interfere with a natural process, you're playing God. God determines what happens naturally. That means when a person's ill, he shouldn't go to a doctor because he's asking for interference with God's will. But of course, patients can't think that way."

Though he has said that he does not impose his own views on patients, his responses to questions in past interviews perhaps revealed otherwise.

Personally, he said if he was in pain and there was no cure for his illness, he'd end his life.

"See it's my natural right. That's in the constitution, in the Ninth Amendment which is ignored. I have a natural right to do whatever I want with my body ... as long as it doesn't affect anybody else or any other property."

Another revealing response:

"Is there some virtue in simply being alive?" he was asked.

"No," he replied.

"I always said all my life if I wasn't born and they gave me the question I'd say I don't want to be born."

 

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