Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jack Kevorkian is a hero in Oakland County MIchigan

Where I lived during the last part of the drama. Seeing "Death with Dignity" initiative people at the University District Street Fair reminded me of it. I supported Jack Kevorkian, my family supported Jack Kevorkian, people protested with him and for him on the steps of the federal court house in Pontiac. It's strange for me to think of people not supporting him, but during all this I was fortunate enough to go to a summer writing program at Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and I found that the impression of Kevorkian there was shock and disgust. He really was "Dr. Death" to them. They seemed sort of horrified when I told them that he had actual support in Michigan. Death with Dignity makes sense; the medical community is committed to keeping a person alive no matter what, no matter if they're in constant pain and have been for years, are barely functional, have no chance of recovery whatsoever, and are likely to either stay that way or slowly decline for years to come. Having physician assisted suicide or other measures gives the person them self a way out of the situation. The idea that it could lead to mass killings is sort of not tenable.

Peter Singer, maybe best known for his work on Animal Liberation, has also written about this, saying that if your motivation is to reduce the pain felt by people and increase the happiness or pleasure that death with dignity is a good idea. So is abortion. So is not keeping people alive at birth who are so severely deformed that they would have horrible lives and require constant care until they die. He attacks the notion that human life is absolutely sacred pretty forcefully, and his arguments are very applicable to the controversy surrounding abortion, in that in his opinion there's not a good idea of just what personhood. It's always a grey area. If life begins at conception than the zygote is eligible for the rights and privileges that full grown individuals have. If personhood starts when someone is a fetus who is not viable outside of the womb then abortion in totality is wrong and is tantamount to murder, even though the fetus may have spontaneously aborted later. Are miscarriages murder? Why not? The sanctity of life argument has no reference to practical realities. We want to protect all life for the sake of the principle and not for the sake of the people whose lives we are committed to saving.

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