Jack Kevorkian's My Man

Is opposition to euthanasia any different from opposing a woman's right to choose? At some point, we must become the stewards of our bodies.
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I can't say I've spent much time thinking about Jack Kevorkian. I haven't even spent much time thinking about euthanasia. That is, until the Terri Schiavo ratings period on CNN, when I devoted quite a bit of time thinking about the horrific politicization of this young woman in a prolonged vegetative state -- a women who would probably have pulled her own cord had she been able. Not her fault that her parents and her husband disagreed. Not her fault Jeb Bush was governor of her home state. Every time CNN showed the one move she made in years, a kind of rolling motion (no proof of brain activity if you ask me, an English major -- no, actually worse, a pass/fail semiotics major) -- I cringed and got progressively angrier. She resembled David's haunting portrait, Death of Marat, or that's what I would have said in an art history paper, had I not already fortunately graduated from college with a degree in semiotics.

Last week, in advance of Dr. Kevorkian's release from the slammer in Michigan, where he'd spent the previous eight years for assisting in the death of a terminally-ill man afflicted with ALS, I started to think about him. And now I'm a passionate supporter of his work. A spokesman for the Detroit archdiocese which urged his incarceration, said, "For 10 years, Jack Kevorkian's actions resembled those of a pathological serial killer. It will be truly regrettable if he's now treated as a celebrity parolee instead of the convicted murderer he is,"

An angel of death or an angel of compassion? I'm voting for the latter. And I wonder, is opposition to euthanasia any different from opposing a woman's right to choose? At some point, we must become the stewards of our bodies. We decide how to feed them, how to dress them, how to medicate them, and whether to take vitamins. If our government wants to get involved in our reproductive lives and our end-of-life plans, will we need to submit our blueprints for tattoos we are considering, piercings we are planning, or whether to grow beards? Will there be an office that will approve (or not) haircuts, permanent waves, and Japanese thermal straightenings? How far can this go, oh party-of-less-government?

Because I will never run for office (you have my word on that) and this is just my opinion, I suppose it doesn't matter what I think. I wish I had given mercy killings more thought before Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of his bold and compassionate acts. If an American citizen commits suicide on his own, using pills he's stockpiled himself, or ordered over the Internet, will he be posthumously arrested for taking his life? If this patient is immobilized by disease, and unable to pour the pills down his own throat, then is the agent who holds his sippee cup considered a murderer?

Please give us back our bodies! If you don't tell me how to wear my hair, I won't tell you that you can't have an abortion, or a tattoo. I heard Jack Kevorkian on 60 Minutes tell Mike Wallace, resignedly, that though he still believes in his work, he is forbidden from practicing ever again. It is unlikely that another doctor will take up where Kevorkian left off, at least in the foreseeable future. Of course, that future is filled with federal officials who want you to believe that healthy babies must be killed in order to procure the stem cells needed to solve many of the knottiest medical riddles of our day.

Kevorkian, now 79 years old and a Samuel Beckett look-alike, deserves our thanks for his courageous deeds.

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