The Unjust Imprisonment of Dr. Jack Kevorkian
By Thomas A. Bowden (Denver Post, June 4, 2007; Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 2007)
Dr. Jack Kevorkian's imprisonment was a great injustice. He would never have been convicted of murder if Michigan law had allowed a defense based on irrefutable, objective evidence of consent. Dr. Kevorkian should be honored for his courageous stand in defense of the right of individuals suffering from devastating terminal diseases to end their lives with the assistance of a trusted doctor.
What lawmakers and judges must grasp is that there is no rational basis upon which the government can properly prevent an individual from choosing to end his own life. Our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means that we need no one's permission to live, and that no one may forcibly obstruct our efforts to achieve personal happiness.
But what if happiness becomes impossible to attain, due to a dread disease or some other calamity? The right to life includes and implies the right to commit suicide. To hold otherwise is to contradict the right to life at its root. If we have a duty to go on living, despite our better judgment, then our lives do not belong to us, and we exist by permission, not by right.
For these reasons, each individual has the right to decide the hour of his death and to implement that solemn decision as best he can. The choice is his because the life is his. And if a doctor is willing--not forced--to assist in the suicide, based on an objective assessment of his patient's mental and physical state, the law should not stand in his way.