Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can Kevorkian Comment?

Seemingly a bit giddy that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had climbed back above 10,000 for the first time in a year, National Public Radio offered an unusual historical montage of the top stories from ten years ago, when the Dow first exceeded that level.

Suddenly one heard the voices of Linda Wertheimer and Noah Adams running through headlines from 1999: The story about whether NATO-led bombing in Kosovo would put sufficient pressure on Serbian forces to avoid a ground war was rather eerie, as the Obama administration weighs whether to increase ground forces in Afghanistan.

Another story dominating the news ten years ago was the trial of Jack Kevorkian, the defrocked doctor and self-styled apostle of euthanasia whom a Michigan jury convicted of second-degree homicide. Sentenced to an indeterminate 10-25 year term, Kevorkian was paroled in June 2007 after serving only 8 years and 2 months. It was essentially a form of compassionate release, with Kevorkian seemingly terminally ill due to Hepatitis C.

Since his release, Kevorkian has regained a measure of health. In recent months, he has begun to flirt with violations of a condition of his parole requiring him to refrain from commenting publicly on issues involving assisted suicide. One wonders what types of internal discussions parole authorities in Michigan are having about this, particularly after Kevorkian addressed a sold-out audience at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania in September.

With or without Kevorkian, issues involving assisted suicide are as timely as ever. Today, the Star Tribune reported that the Minnesota Board of Nursing had made public its revocation of the license of William Melchert-Dinkel, a male nurse who used international online suicide chat rooms to urge others to take their own lives. The evidence showed that on two separate occasions Melchert-Dinkel entered into suicide pacts, saying he would die at the same time as another person − then watched on his webcam as the victims killed themselves.

One victim was Nadia Kajouji, an 18-year-old college student in Onatario who was struggling with depression. The other was a 32-year-old man in England, according to the investigation in Minnesota that preceded the revocation of Melchert-Dinkel's nursing license.

When Camus said that suicide is the only serious philosophical question, he was not thinking of this.

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