Who owns your life? Who owns your body? Why is it still illegal to choose your own death?
If it had been up to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, right now you would have the right to choose doctor assisted euthanasia as an end of life choice. Kevorkian didn’t see himself as having to solve death, or as losing the fight against death. He was not interested in keeping patients with good insurance hooked up to machines that kept their bodies alive, long after life ceased to actually exist. In recent years there have been famous court cases in the U.S. around this very issue; people wanting to release their loved ones, allow them to die, pull the plug, so to speak.
Many people have living wills, including DNR orders (Do Not Resuscitate), but even these are not honored in all states in the U.S. Some religions see any kind of suicide as sinful, going against God’s wishes. They believe that only God can decide whether you live or die.
In the film, Kevorkian rails against the belief that God wants humans to suffer, so that’s why euthanasia is on God’s no-no list.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian worked with people who consciously chose their own deaths, when it was very clear that their bodies were done, and their spirits were ready to move on. He saw his role as a physician as including shepherding his patients to their chosen deaths, in a far more humane way than many people currently die in their hospital beds. Many people choose hospice as an end of life choice to bring some spirit and humanity back to the natural cycle of life. If you’re done, you’re done. Death isn’t a failure.
For his unwillingness to line up to the widely held societal fears about death and end of life issues, as well as his constantly questioning the system as it exists, not to mention even bringing the issue into the public eye, Jack Kevorkian was ridiculed, punished, imprisoned, and generally, made an example of.
There is a grace to Kevorkian’s life’s work, well worth revisiting. He was capable of having enough compassion and sense to know that death is a part of life, so why not make the exit a kinder one? He is also portrayed as having poor social skills, he didn’t play nice to get along. He wasn’t interested in playing games, he just wanted to convince others that his common sense approach was the right way to go. He treated his sister carelessly, and was just plain rude to many others in his world, but never to his patients.
This is a portrait of a man who cared about his own integrity, and held to it. He had a certain autonomy in that he was able to step outside of the group. He wasn’t looking for approval from authority or others.
This psychic is grateful to have seen this film so she could get herself into present time with this issue. “You Don’t Know Jack” is highly recommended. Al Pacino as Kevorkian gives a believable performance that doesn’t have you constantly remembering that he is Al Pacino, and the rest of the cast are great.
Image ©HBO. Made for HBO, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon, Danny Huston, John Goodman, Brenda Vaccaro