Fade to Black for Jack

Jack Kevorkian died today at 83, and despite jokes about whether or not anyone assisted him, he died in a hospital in Michigan where he’d been staying for weeks due to pneumonia and kidney problems. Besides putting assisted suicide in the spotlight, Jack was also an amazing and prolific painter and explored the darkness of human nature in his artwork. You might be shocked (or not) to know that Jack sometimes used his own blood as paint.

Jack was a licensed doctor, and though an odd one at times known for his strange costumes and public flare, he treated his patients with respect and the dignity they deserved. His “suicide machine” was designed so that the patient would actually push the final lever to end their life. When a patient passed out before initiating this final process and Jack pushed the lever for him, this is what mainly led to Jack’s 2nd degree murder conviction. Jack videotaped all of his procedures as proof that he wasn’t doing anything illegal, but his hesistation to pull that trigger got him jail time.

Some people are probably cheering that Jack is gone now. We generally don’t like people who question society and what is considered the norm. We want them to suffer or die. But consider this. If you were alone in the world and had no family or friends, and you were suffering from a terminal illness, what if you considered checking out? What would be so wrong with a doctor assisting you leave the world from a professional or medical standpoint? Hospice workers often inject their patients with large doses of morphine to “help you rest.” Isn’t that almost the same thing? What makes it any different? The fact that we don’t consider that suicide?

If a family member or friend of mine made this decision, I think I’d be okay with it. I’d much rather their final moments be handled in such a way rather than a gunshot to their head or jumping off a bridge. Wouldn’t you? You are probably thinking that’s crazy, but that’s because of the way society has shaped us into believing that taking your own life is wrong. From a religious view, maybe it is. But there are fine lines between medicine and religion, and when it comes to either we don’t always have the answers. We aren’t always right. But we aren’t always wrong.

Jack made us question who was right or wrong. That’s all.

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