Cuddly Angel of Death

Al Pacino manages to make Dr. Death lovably eccentric in You Don’t Know Jack, an HBO docudrama about Jack Kevorkian, the retired Michigan pathologist who became nationally notorious in the 1990s as a freelance suicide facilitator. Pacino also portrays Kevorkian’s grandiosity and recklessness, which led to eight years in prison for second-degree murder after multiple acquittals for assisting suicide.

The film, though sympathetic to Kevorkian’s cause, shows he was not really fighting for individual autonomy in matters of life and death. Instead he advocated laws, similar to those since enacted in Oregon and Washington state, that let people who want to kill themselves enlist the assistance of doctors, but only when their motives pass muster with these state-appointed gatekeepers. As Thomas Szasz argues in Fatal Freedom, such assistance is necessary only because the state blocks access to suicide-suitable drugs or because patients and their families want to disguise a moral decision as a medical one.

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  • Todd Krainin||

    Even still, Dr. Kevorkian ought to be regarded as a principled man and a hero of civil liberties. He spent eight years in prison in order to bring the world a little more freedom. In doing so, he single-handedly pushed our government closer toward recognizing the most fundamental right of all: our right to our own lives.

    I would be very pleased to see the writers at Reason - and libertarians in general – become champions of the right-to-die movement in the coming years. We are on the right side of history here, yet not enough is written about this crucial issue. The right to die may seem depressing or far away to some. But sooner or later, a great many of us will need to exercise this right, whether for ourselves or for a loved one.

    The time to continue Kevorkian's legacy is now.

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  • Angel||

    Thanks Jacob, for this article on the cuddly angel of death. A nice point about the Kevorkian’s cause.

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