By Dave Andrusko
This post is built on a terrific story by Right to Life of Michigan–“Stumping for secret court orders and secret DNR orders–which we are reposting and dozens and dozens of stories we wrote about “Dr. Death,” Jack Kevorkian.
Although now deceased, Kevorkian’s ugly legacy lives on in the writings of people like Jack Lessenberry, who is now Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst. In the 1990s, he was an unstinting apologist for Kevorkian whose rampage ended only when he made it impossible for the legal system not to convict him. He became a hero of Hollywood after he was paroled.
RTL of Michigan’s story is about Lessenberry’s typically hysterical approach whenever the topic is (however loosely defined) the “right to die.” He bashed RTL of Michigan in an over-the-top hit job under the headline, “Legislature wants to take away our right to die.”
Of course, it is nothing of the sort. The legislation is intending to honor patient decision-making which, of late, has been shamelessly taken away. To quote RTL of Michigan
We’ve learned that some hospitals are going behind the backs of patients’ families and legal patient advocates to obtain secret court orders to establish guardianship over patients. Family members are showing up at the hospital only to discover hospital staff have taken control over their loved one to end their life.
In the context of the long, long Kevorkian saga, who was Jack Lessenberry? When Kevorkian died, the New York Times included this reference in his obituary:
But Jack Lessenberry, a prominent Michigan journalist who covered Dr. Kevorkian’s one-man campaign, wrote in The Detroit Metro Times: “Jack Kevorkian, faults and all, was a major force for good in this society. He forced us to pay attention to one of the biggest elephants in society’s living room: the fact that today vast numbers of people are alive who would rather be dead, who have lives not worth living.”
That was Lessenberry’s message in story after story for newspapers, including the New York Times: Kevorkian was a “major force for good.” His most famous puff piece was written for Vanity Fair in 1994: “Death becomes him.”
Nobody but nobody covered Kevorkian in the depth and in context like Wesley J. Smith. Was Kevorkian, warts and all (so to speak) a force for good, major or otherwise? In 2014 Wesley wrote
Kevorkian is dead, but the policies he advocated are becoming reality—one bit here, another bit there—throughout much of the West. For example, Kevorkian insisted that access to assisted suicide should not be restricted to the terminally ill. He put his poison where his mouth was, too: About 70 percent of those who flew to Michigan to end their lives with Kevorkian’s assistance weren’t terminally ill. Five weren’t even sick, according to their autopsies, including his second known assisted suicide—Marjorie Wantz—a mentally ill woman who complained of chronic pain.
Kevorkian was a precursor of assisted suicide for any reason or (as we are approaching) no reason, including assisted suicide when people haven’t asked to be “assisted.”
Wesley often remarked Kevorkian’s true goal was human vivisection. Quoting from Kevorkian’s book, “Prescription Medicide,” Wesley noted his ultimate purpose was to “gain access to people who wanted to be euthanized so he could conduct experiments on them while they were still alive and under sedation.”
But as zany as he was (“zany” was a term of endearment to Kevorkian’s army of sympathizers), Dr. Death could only have done the damage he did because he had megaphones like Jack Lessenberry.
To this day, Lessenberry is channeling the ethos of Jack Kevorkian.