I wanted to write “Dr. Death is Dead” as the hed here, and I’m certain that’s what will be on the front page of the New York Post today. But it’s just pejorative. And it disrespects the man’s work. He deserves better.
Americans have a strange fascination and history with unsensible prohibition. Our response to destructive drugs is to ban them and to throw their users in jail in unfathomable numbers. The response of many of us to abortion is to want to ban abortion and throw its practioners, both docs and mothers, into jail rather than providing abundant and reasonable family planning options.
And our response to Jack Kevorkian was to convict him and throw him in jail.
Jack Kevorkian was right. A decent society would overtly provide its humans the same courtesy it provides its pets, the option to comfortably take people out comfortably when it gets that horribly bad. How many docs today will put their jobs on the line by quietly pushing too much morphine for a patient who hurts so badly that he can’t see straight? It happens, like or not. All Kevorkian said was, let’s stop doing this under the table. Let’s do this honestly and stop pretending. What a no bullshit kind of guy.
The jokes, the calls to Alanis Morisette-level irony will be unavoidable. Hey, did you hear? Dr. Death died. Heh heh heh. Isn’t that ironic? Like rain on you wedding day!
But there’s no funny ha-ha and there’s no funny strange here. Jack Kevorkian had sensible ideas and went to prison to make those ideas real. He wasn’t wrong, and all he did was to bring a tacitly-practiced reality out of the shadows. Pardon me for over-reaching a little, but had his ideas and his methods caught on, had we been that progressive and awesome a society, Jack Kevorkian would have been remembered today with the likes of Rosa Parks and Mahatma Ghandi.
Instead, we are what we are, and he’s a punchline. Sad.