Jack Kevorkian, known mostly for his contraversial take on a person’s unalienable right to end his/her suffering by means of assisted suicide, is a man of great interest for other reasons too.
He is an oil painter, a jazz musician and a politician. Born to a family of Armenian immigrants, he grew up in Michigan extremely aware of the suffering his family had undergone at the hands of the Turks, in the widely underpublicized Armenian genocide of the early 1900s. His family history and culture helped shape his view of a person’s unablienable rights, especially as he developed a better understanding of patients’ rights while in medical school.
After practicing as a doctor for some time, Kevorkian published many research papers on the study of euthanasia and began to advertise for his services as a “death consultant” in local papers. He became known for helping people with terminal diseases who are in a constant state of pain end their own lives, through medicinal means. After taping one of the assisted suicides he assisted in, and airing it on 60 Minutes, he was arrested on charges of first degree murder. He chose to represent himself, and was subsequently convicted of second degree murder and sent to jail. From jail, he appealed his case, but was not granted cert.
He served 8 years of his term and then was released early due to the deteriorating state of his health. As one of the terms of his parole he is no longer allowed to comment on assisted suicide or advise patients, but he has spent much of his time since then campaigning to change laws which prohibit assisted suicide. In 2008, he campaigned for a seat in Michigan’s 9th congressional district, but received only 2.6% of the vote. Since then he has continued to spread his message advocating for people’s freedoms, quoting the Ninth Amendment.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
He has toured the country to promote his ideals, speaking at the University of Florida, Nova Southeastern University and appearing on many news shows. I think that he could offer a great deal of insight, and the legal studies, pre-med, ethics, social justice and social policy departments, as well as groups such as the Brandeis Law Journal and pre-law society, could all benefit from his teachings. I would hope religious groups would be interested as well, because even if you do not agree with his views, it’s a fascinating look into a divisive issue, from someone who has lived his whole life contemplating these topics. Anyone want to help me bring him to Brandeis?