Kevorkian's conviction

Second-degree murder: Dr. Death continues to focus attention on issues that need to be debated.

April 01, 1999

THERE'S LITTLE to admire about Jack Kevorkian or his antics. There's little, therefore, to mourn about his recent conviction for second-degree murder in the death of Thomas Youk.

But the discussion about the concerns and rights of terminally ill patients that Kevorkian's actions over the years has spawned has been healthy -- if not conclusive.

Unlike the previous trials in which Kevorkian was acquitted, Mr. Youk did not flip a switch on the doctor's suicide machine. Kevorkian administered a lethal injection to the man, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.

A videotape of that injection was subsequently broadcast on CBS' "60 Minutes," making few, if any, facts in the case in dispute.

Kevorkian crossed a line that should not have been crossed. In the previous cases that went to court, he assisted terminally ill patients in carrying out their wishes to end their suffering. This time, he acted on a dying man's behalf.

The problem with Kevorkian is that he is too much like the back-alley abortionists from whom pro-choice advocates seek to protect desperate women. A former pathologist, Kevorkian is now scorned by most physicians for his zealotry and grotesque publicity seeking, as well as his lack of training to care for the sick and dying.

But in the absence of clear guidelines that would permit more mainstream members of the profession to assist their dying patients who want to end of their lives, Kevorkian is the person to whom Thomas Youk had to turn.

That's a sign of the continuing failure of public policy in this area.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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