Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kevorkian Explains His Hunger Strike `Liberty Means More to Me Than Life Itself,' Jailed Doctor Declares

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kevorkian Explains His Hunger Strike `Liberty Means More to Me Than Life Itself,' Jailed Doctor Declares

Article excerpt

"I hope this will not be my last interview," Dr. Jack Kevorkian said in his jail cell last week.

He is on a hunger strike and refusing to post bail after being charged with violating Michigan's ban on assisted suicide.

This week, Wayne County Circuit Judge Richard Kaufman is to rule on the constitutionality of Michigan's statute. If he upholds the law, Kevorkian is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 5.

Asked why he had begun the hunger strike, he replied: "My liberty has been unjustly stolen. . . . Liberty means more to me than life itself. I don't want to die, no more than anybody else. I have the same qualms about death as anybody."

He contended that the issue was not physician-assisted suicide but rather the right not to have to suffer. The issue is "the quality of life, according to an individual's personal opinion. It's all about personal autonomy and the right of a competent adult to decide, with medical guidance, when that quality has medically diminished beyond what they think is the point of no return."

A reporter said some of Kevorkian's critics contended that he was obsessed with death and had been for decades.

Kevorkian responded: "I am obsessed with life! And death is a part of life, as much as we may try to deny that in this country, in this society. Some psychologists say that we ought to think about death for five minutes every day. I may be `obsessed,' if that is the term, with trying to learn about what it is. First of all, I'd like to know what it means - what the meaning of death is on the scientific plane. . . . I'd like to get more scientific research into it."

Asked when he began thinking of assisting patients in committing suicide, he answered: "From the time I first saw horribly suffering patients in the hospital, where I was being trained as a young doctor, I was absolutely convinced that this was right.

"What finally happened was there was this fellow in Michigan, David Rivlin, who was a quadriplegic, on a respirator, and he went on television and said he wanted to die. …

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