Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Assisted-suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian dead at 83

By  Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
  • June 8, 2011

WASHINGTON - Dr. Jack Kevorkian, dubbed “Dr. Death” for his longtime advocacy of assisted suicide and his role in assisting in the deaths of 130 people, died June 3 at age 83 in a Detroit-area hospital.

The former medical pathologist suffered from kidney-related problems.

Dr. Kevorkian was frequently in the spotlight throughout the 1990s, from his first role in an assisted suicide in Michigan in 1990 until 1999 when he was sentenced to serve 10-25 years after being convicted of second-degree murder for assisting in a nationally televised death of a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Released on parole in 2007, Dr. Kevorkian was banned from assisting in suicides or advising anyone on how to make his suicide machine he called the “Mercitron.” He was permitted to speak out in favour of assisted suicide, which he did.

Throughout Dr. Kevorkian’s years of advocating assisted suicide and his direct involvement in this practice, Church leaders repeatedly condemned his actions.

A June 3 statement by Ned McGrath, director of communications for the Detroit archdiocese, noted that much of the commentary on Dr. Kevorkian’s death omitted the “sobering and deadly legacy he leaves behind.”

“May God have mercy on his soul and on the scores of confused, conflicted and, at times, clinically depressed victims he killed,” he said.

McGrath stressed that the “Catholic Church holds all human life sacred” and said it is “both ironic and tragic that Kevorkian himself was afforded a dignified, natural death in a hospital, something he denied to those who came to him in desperation, only to be poisoned and have their bodies left in places such as vans and motel rooms.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement that in the wake of Dr. Kevorkian’s death his organization would renew its commitment “to proclaim that life is better than death. Every life has burdens. When we respond to the call to bear one another’s burdens, then we close the door to despair.”

Catholic officials in Michigan, the centre of Dr. Kevorkian’s activity, continually voiced the Church’s opposition to assisted suicide. In 1993, the year Michigan approved a statute outlawing assisted suicide, then-Archbishop Adam J. Maida of Detroit said that while “lawmakers and the courts will, no doubt, continue to debate this issue, the Church’s teaching remains consistent.”

“Opening the door to the concept of ‘assisted suicide’ is truly a very dangerous thing,” he added. “Simply put, it suggests that we can make ourselves God and decide when and how we should die or someone else should die.”

In 1994, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that assisting in a suicide was a common-law felony and that the state Constitution provided no protective rights to suicide assistance.

The U.S. bishops continue to speak up against physician- assisted suicide for the terminally ill which is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana. During their mid-June meeting in Seattle, they will consider a proposed policy statement on physician-assisted suicide. It will be the first time they will be taking on this divisive issue as a body of bishops.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the time is right for the statement, titled “To Live Each Day With Dignity.”

“After years of relative inaction following legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon in 1994, the assisted suicide movement has shown a strong resurgence in activity,” the cardinal said in a news release about the proposed statement.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.