- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 25, 2004

Why is Jack Kevorkian still alive? The assisted-suicide enthusiast, who says he helped some 130 people kill themselves, is in prison for the 1998 murder of Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. While Kevorkian says he never actively killed anyone before Youk — he instead helped the afflicted kill themselves — the death doc personally injected Youk with poison in 1998 and videotaped the procedure so it could be aired on “60 Minutes.”

Kevorkian said he killed Youk on camera because he wanted to challenge Michigan’s assisted-suicide law. He told the Oakland Press of Michigan he wanted a “showdown”: “I want to be prosecuted for euthanasia. I am going to prove that this is not a crime, ever, regardless of what words are written on paper.”

As the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for. Kevorkian got his trial — and to his surprise, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 10 to 25 years behind bars. Kevorkian promptly threatened to go on a hunger strike in prison. After prison authorities announced they would not force-feed the death doc, presto change-o, he decided to eat. And live.

Now, after losing appeals, Kevorkian’s attorney Mayer Morganroth is asking Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to pardon Kevorkian or commute his sentence. According to the Detroit Free Press, Morganroth cites Kevorkian’s health problems — high blood pressure, arthritis, hernias, hepatitis C, cataracts, heart disease, adrenal insufficiency suggestive of Addison’s disease and lung disease — as cause for Gov. Granholm to release Kevorkian from the slammer.

The irony here is that, before prison, Kevorkian saw the above as reason to release others from the mortal coil. While he likes to portray himself as a man who helped terminally ill people die, many of his victims were not terminal, and it’s not clear some were particularly ill. His first victim, Janet Adkins, had early Alzheimer’s disease, but she was 54 and fit enough to play tennis days before she visited Kevorkian’s death van.

If Kevorkian, now 76, felt comfortable helping a fiftysomething tennis player pull her plug, surely he should regard his own poor health as deserving the ultimate remedy — what he dubbed “medicide.” Explaining why his early victims were women, Kevorkian once explained that females are “far more realistic about facing death and have got the guts to do it.”

According to the Oakland Press, Mr. Morganroth said Kevorkian doesn’t expect his client to live “more than a year.” Truth be told, Team Kevorkian has a bit of a credibility problem. An appeals brief claims Kevorkian injected Youk not so much to kill Youk as to relieve his pain. Bunk.

This is choice: The brief sought an appeal because Kevorkian had incompetent counsel advising him. (Kevorkian served as his own lawyer but had attorneys advising him.) Now, according to Mr. Morganroth’s brief, Kevorkian “was under the impression that he was represented by counsel throughout the trial.”

Again, if Kevorkian is senile and sickly, shouldn’t he ask for deliverance instead of a commutation?

Think: Kevorkian has piled up 130 corpses. He helped kill people without really knowing their medical condition. He extolled the virtues of “death with dignity.” When Michigan passed laws to prevent the carnage, he continued assisting suicides, even experimenting with sick new twists, such as the time he removed kidneys from a corpse — ostensibly for transplantation, except no real doctor would touch those butchered parts.

Now, Kevorkian’s lawyer says he should be free because he is sick. There is no talk of “death with dignity.” There is no talk of quality-of-life issues. There is no insistence on autonomy. To the contrary, while Kevorkian thought others should die if they lacked freedom of movement, he has survived five years in prison.

When you’re Jack Kevorkian, life is sweet. Even behind bars.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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