Earlier this month Dr. Jack Kevorkian died. Dubbed “Dr. Death,” he believed dying should be an intimate and dignified process, something those with terminal illness are often denied.
During his lifetime, he assisted 130 suicides of terminally-ill patients, and served eight years in prison for his crimes.
Kevorkian framed the debate on many end-of-life issues, and as one of the bloggers for Death Reference Desk put it, “informed Generation X’s future.”
“I…came of age and entered adulthood surrounded by End-of-Life debates. Most people have mixed feelings about what Kevorkian did but at least he made people talk about death and dying. And those conversations have had an impact over the years.”
(That blog, by the way, is curious. The bloggers include a professor and librarian who team together to inform the “casually interested and morbidly curious about death including the bizarre, batty and beautiful.”)
Writer William Saletan with Slate had the following to say about Jack Kevorkian and his own father’s recent death:
“I always thought Kevorkian was basically right about assisted suicide. I figured that if my parents ever wanted to end their lives, I’d find the pills and help them. But reality turned out to be more complicated. I heard my father on the phone telling friends he was ready to go. “If I had a euthanasia option, I would take it,” he told one well-wisher, “because there are very few interesting things left for me to do.” His words chilled me. This was not a man tortured by pain. His breathing was fine that morning. His mind was intact. His body seemed to be rallying. But he was stuck in a wheelchair, too winded to talk much, and too often alone. He was bored. The thought of him taking suicide pills, when a game of cards might do, shook me up.”
What do you think? How did Jack Kevorkian shape your opinion of death and dying? If his last name had been Smith would it have been as easy to cast him in the villainous role of a mad scientist?