Jack Kevorkian: a medical hero

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7044.1434 (Published 08 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1434
  1. John Roberts,
  2. Carl Kjellstrand
  1. North American editor, BMJ Baltimore, MD 21218-2804, USA
  2. Professor of medicine and bioethics University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1B3

    Rare heroism to make us all feel uncomfortable

    The hero “is a man of action rather than thought and lives by a personal code of honour that admits of no qualification. His responses are usually instinctive, predictable, and inevitable. He accepts challenge and sometimes even courts disaster.”

    Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition

    Last month, Dr Jack Kevorkian walked out of a Michigan courthouse, probably free at last from the lawsuits he has brought on himself over the past six years. Dr Kevorkian has admitted to assisting in the suicides of 28 people since 1990. And despite the best efforts of the legislature and the court of his state of Michigan, he has apparently won his crusade.

    Some, including the American Medical Association, question his goal of legitimising physician assisted suicide. Some of his “patients” have not had what would be called terminal disease. Among them have been sufferers of multiple sclerosis, chronic pelvic pain, emphysema, and motor neurone disease. The one thing they all shared was a sense of suffering that was so bad that they felt they had no choice but to end their own lives. And so far, not one of their relatives has had anything but praise for Dr …

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