In sad news, famed doctor, politician and civil rights activist Jack Kevorkian died this past Friday from medical complications related to kidney failure and thrombosis. His death leaves the future of the euthanasia movement in unorganized hands. Perhaps selfishly, his death saddens me because I had hoped to bring Kevorkian to speak at Brandeis at some point, as I blogged about in September. Interestingly enough, his life ended in a hospital, where he was unable to take his own life. Whether or not he would have chosen to do so, we will never know.
Kevorkian, a life-long advocate for a person’s right to terminate his life, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. In 2007 he was released early on parole due to good behavior, one of the conditions of his parole being that he not practice euthanasia or provide care for anyone who was disabled or over the age of 62. Furthermore, Kevorkian was forbidden from commenting on assisted suicide, a huge curtailment of freedom of speech.
Kevorkian chose to continue to advocate for people’s freedoms while following these restrictions, running to represent Michigan’s 9th Congressional district in 2008 on a campaign which emphasized people’s ability to take their 9th Amendment Constitutional rights into their own hands. He lost the election, but continued to speak at various universities and other centers of learning about what he believed in, in broad strokes.
A brilliant artist, musician, author and speaker, he will be missed.
For more information, read about Kevorkian’s life and death in the New York Times.