The real Jack Kevorkian

Editor’s note. The following is excerpted from the blog of Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

I was working on last minute preparations before the opening of the Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (June 3) when I received a phone call asking me for comments concerning the death of Jack Kevorkian. All I could say is that I offer condolences to his family and friends and that I wanted the world to remember the real Jack Kevorkian.

During the past few years, friends and euthanasia advocates have been working overtime to create a new Kevorkian. Books and plays have been written, and a HBO movie starring Al Pacino was titled: “You Don’t Know Jack.”

Many people have suggested that Kevorkian was a reliever of suffering, but an analysis by the Detroit Free Press found that of his 130 victims, at least 60% of them were depressed or living with disabilities, 17 of the victims did not have a condition that would lead to death, 13 had no signs of any pain and five had no signs of an illness.

Kevorkian should have been stopped early in his campaign.

Janet Adkins, Kevorkian’s first victim, had Alzheimer disease. Kevorkian accepted her as his first case after speaking to Janet’s husband. Unlike most of his victims, Kevorkian spoke to Adkins’ psychiatrist, Dr. Murray Raskind who told Kevorkian that Janet was not competent to make a decision to end her life. Kevorkian gave her a lethal dose in his van. [Editor’s note. It was not known until Kevorkian told Larry King in 2010 that “I did the injection.” Until that June 18 interview, it had been thought that Kevorkian had “assisted” her.]

[Next was] Marjorie Wantz (58), who had unexplained vaginal pain. Wantz had a long history of depression and other psychiatric problems. When Wantz responded in an ambivalent manner to the concept of suicide, Kevorkian stated to her: “You sound like you’re in pain.” When she replied that she was in pain, Kevorkian went ahead with death by lethal dose.

An autopsy found that Wantz had no condition that could have caused the pain.

Some other victims include:

Rebecca Badger (39), a single mother of two who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and psychiatric and emotional problems. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but an autopsy found no sign of the disease.

Lisa Lansing (42), a single medical malpractice attorney, complained for more than a decade of pain in her digestive system. Doctors in New Jersey could not find a medical problem. One physician said he refused to treat Lansing because she was interested mainly in obtaining prescription painkillers.

Judith Curren (42), a registered nurse who had not worked in 10 years, lived with a muscle disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Was Kevorkian different from the rest of the euthanasia lobby?

Kevorkian personified the euthanasia lobby. His radical comments and weird quirks made him appear different from the others but after examining the comments by other leaders in the euthanasia lobby, you must conclude that Kevorkian represented them well. It is dangerous for society to rewrite the history of Kevorkian.

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