One of my heroes, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is to be released on parole from prison June 1, after serving over eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence. He is the retired pathologist who was imprisoned over eight years ago for assisting a man to end his life. He is scheduled to appear on “60 Minutes” two days later, on June 3, 2007.
There is sure to be a lot of attention paid to his release; the media likes to sensationalize their reports about Dr. Kevorkian; they make up terms like “Dr. Death” and capitalize on the supposed “contradiction” of a physician assisting a patient to die.
Lost in the controversy is the concept of individual rights. It is each individual’s choice whether to keep on living. After all, whose life is it? If a person chooses to end his life, it is his right to hire a physician to help him end it in a way that is both painless and efficient. And, it is a doctor’s right to provide such help if he sees fit.
Life is sacred, the opponents of physician-assisted suicide say; it’s never right to purposely end it. They are right that life is sacred. That’s why it must be ended when it loses its value to the person concerned. The question then is, how best to end it. To prohibit a doctor of his choice from helping that person is to deny both of them their right to live as they choose.