Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian (Research and Video 4:59 mins.)

Feb. 6: 1991: Physician-assisted suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian poses with his “suicide machine” in Michigan. (Northwestern University Library)

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also referred to as Dr. Death, is best known for his public support of patients’ right to physician-assisted suicide. He admits to having participated in at least 130 suicides. After being tried in court several times and shown on national television deliberately causing a man to die, Kevorkian was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder. In prison, he served eight years of a 10-25-year sentence. His parole includes not helping anyone else die.

Dr. Kevorkian has been a very controversial public figure for many years. A popular HBO movie titled “You Don’t Know Jack” is based on his life. His ideas about euthanasia have important implications in discussions about end-of life care and medical ethics.

In a   research study done in Oregon,  where the Oregon Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill patients to obtain physician aid in dying, it was reported that these persons were motivated by worries of “future physical discomfort and losses of autonomy and function.” Healthcare workers can help patients who have these concerns and express an interest in physician-assisted suicide by bolstering their sense of control, educating them, and reassuring them about managing future symptoms.

The following video includes CNN interviewer John Roberts and Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Discussion includes prison life, physician-assisted suicide, and Michael Jackson’s death.

Hospice-palliative volunteers bring a unique perspective to the ongoing debate about physician-assisted suicide. You can read their views here:

Frances Shani Parker, Author

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