Much has been written about how legal assisted suicide and euthanasia (two sides of the same coin under our current US laws) dangerously affect the doctor-patient relationship. The article below, written for True Dignity by disability rights activist W. Carol Cleigh, explores the way legal assisted suicide dangerously affects law enforcement.
Read this account of the Jack Kevorkian trial and murder conviction in the light of our last True Dignity post, about how promoters of assisted suicide really support choice only for a miniscule group of strong willed, able-bodied people who may or may not be acting freely. It appears not to care about the destruction legal assisted suicide wreaks on choice for most of us.
Also read this in the light of NPR talk show host Diane Rehm’s recent statement to the Washington Post that Kevorkian was a man ahead of his time. Google it; we won’t post. Presumably Rehm does not know that Kevorkian killed a man who did not want to die.
If she does know, we have to make another assumption: that the able bodied advocates of assisted suicide so want people with disabilities to want to die that they are starting to make mistakes, to show their true colors, which have nothing to do with either compassion or choices.
Cleigh’s great piece is below the stars:
by: W. Carol Cleigh
One of the things that I haven’t seen much of in all of the discussion about assisted suicide/euthanasia (AS/E), is its effect upon police agencies, prosecutors and the like. A lot of people don’t seem to fully understand that existing laws against AS/E are homicide codes. Just like murder, manslaughter, etc., AS/E laws prohibit one person from killing another.
AS/E is about making people dead. Even given the most benign of circumstances in which the person to be made dead clearly and consistently expresses their wish to be made dead and takes a lethal drug themselves, the person(s) facilitating that AS/E have taken action to make another person dead. At the very least, they have taken a suicide attempt, which may succeed or fail, and guaranteed its success (Attempted Suicide, Completed, http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/0301/0301ft4.htm). So, whatever our position on AS/E, we must agree that repeal of prohibitions against it create a ‘special case’ of homicide.
What, then, happens to criminal investigations when AS/E is‘normalized?’ One well documented example involves suburban Detroit, Michigan and Jack Kevorkian. Between 1990 and 1999, Kevorkian acknowledged that he made 130 people dead, mostly in Detroit suburbs. In 1990, after he made Janet Adkins dead, police made every effort to investigate her death, and indeed, Kevorkian was charged, though charges were later dropped.
In the early days, several other Kevorkian deaths were throughly investigated and some were prosecuted. However, by 1993, which seems a surprisingly short time, investigations were cursory at best with police moving so quickly thorough death scenes that they were “rarely unraveling their yellow tape.” So, “the bizarre became almost banal” and disabled people died with no semblance of official investigation (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/22/us/doctor-who-assists-suicides-makes-the-macabre-mundane.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/opinion/06douthat.html?_r=0).
By the time Kevorkian made Tom Youk dead in 1998, the total police report was about ½ a page (personal communication from ADA). That is, until 60 Minutes decided to air Kevorkian’s film of Tom’s death.
What we saw on TV was not assisted suicide, even the pro-Kevorkian article on Wikipedia calls it euthanasia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kevorkian). Youk did not make any gesture to participate in his demise. As we learned during the trial, it was also not voluntary. “Tom said no” (personal communication from eyewitness, Larry Biondi). Biondi and other members of Not Dead Yet saw this on 60 Minutes’ unaired tapes played at the trial. Tom did not want to die. In April 1999, Kevorkian was convicted of second degree murder.
Kevorkian claimed that his earlier deaths had been assisted suicides, but we have only his word for that. One wonders why he used Tom Youk’s death on 60 Minutes if Youk did not represent his usual practice.
So, over the course of a decade, Kevorkian managed to ‘normalize’ AS/E in suburban Detroit and police failed to investigate. The prosecutor took a ‘hands off’ attitude and 130 people were made dead. How many others did not want to die?
Who investigated? No one.
A basic problem with all AS/E laws and proposals is that they create a ‘special case’ of homicide based solely upon the social location of the person made dead. Police, prosecutors, media and the general public believe that they know what is happening when disabled people are made dead. Their ableist bigotry makes them assume that we must, or at least should, want to die. Because of this belief, they fail to investigate. As Tom Youk’s death proves, murderers, even serial killers, can hide behind this ‘special case’ so long as they choose their victims with care and don’t air their snuff tapes on national television.