Jack Kevorkian has taken the next step in his obsession with death, crossing the line from physician assisted suicide, to euthanasia. To add a macabre twist to the event, his action was taped and televised nationally to an audience of millions.
On Sept. 17, Kevorkian videotaped himself as he administered a lethal injection into the arm Thomas Youk, who reportedly suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Youk, 52, of Waterford, Mich., had lost use of his arms and legs, and was reportedly terrified of choking.
Kevorkian then presented the tape to the producers of the CBS program 60 Minutes, who aired it Nov. 22 before an estimated 15.6 million households.
Kevorkian suggested he administered the injection for the sake of the victim. "If a man is terrified," he told 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, "it's up to me to dispel that terror."
Kevorkian also revealed his attempt to reshape the nation's laws and the culture's view of death. "This is the ultimate self-determination," he said, "to decide how and when you're going to die when you're suffering.
"This could never be a crime in a society that considers itself enlightened," he said. "The issue has got to be raised to a level where it is finally decided."
Kevorkian, commonly referred to as Dr. Death, has reportedly assisted in more than 130 suicides in the last ten years. However, he claims this is his first participation in what he referred to as "active euthanasia."
Kevorkian admitted that the intent of broadcasting the event was to force the hands of prosecutors to settle the debate over the issue.
"They must charge me. Because if they do not, that means they don't think it was a crime," Kevorkian said on the program.
Youk's death came less than three weeks after Michigan enacted a law making assisted suicide a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The video appears to have given 60 Minutes its highest ratings of the TV season. In the weeks leading up to the show, the newsmagazine's average rating was 12.8, or an estimated 12.7 million households watching every week. The Nov. 22 broadcast drew a preliminary 15.7 rating according to Nielsen Media Research.
The solid numbers came during the last Sunday of the November "sweeps" period, when ratings are used to set local advertising rates. Networks typically run their strongest, and often their most controversial programming during "sweeps" months.
Not every CBS affiliate televised the program, however. Six affiliates owned by Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp. broadcast local news instead of the Kevorkian segment.
"The corporation has a policy of not showing the taking of a life or the moment of death of an individual in its news broadcasts," said Belo vice president Marty Haag. "And a subset of that is the nature of the tape made by Dr. Kevorkian was not suitable for the 60 Minutes time period."
Kevorkian appeared defiant as he talked about prosecutors on 60 Minutes. "Either they go or I go," Kevorkian said. "If I'm acquitted, they go, because they know they'll never convict me. If I'm convicted, I will starve to death in prison, so I will go."
Road to Ruin
"Even the most jaded among us should be shocked by the terrible distance we've come down this road to ruin. This is a further illustration of the cheapening of human life, and should be clearly decried and firmly opposed by every thinking Christian. Mr. Kevorkian's sick obsession with death, combined with CBS's cynicism and self-promotion in airing this during its "sweeps week" are a foul combination which could prove lethal to America's future. To call homicide merciful is the height of absurdity. In the Netherlands over a thousand people a year are put to death without their consent by medical personnel. This is where Kevorkian's agenda leads - the murder of the ill and elderly, or whoever the society thinks unworthy of life."
Morris H. Chapman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Executive Committee, SBC
Obsessed with Death
The freedom with which Kevorkian executes his death obsession reveals the dark culture in which he operates. That darkness is further reflected in the growing success of an "alternative rock" group named Kevorkian Death Cycle.
According to the musical group's website, KDC began as crusaders of the right to die. The biography provided on their website reveals the dark nature of their lyrics:
"Their first demo tape, entitled Distorted Noise Arrhythmia (or DNA), featured four songs, two of which were devoted to views in favor of Kevorkian's beliefs. Send Me the Machine, an amazing conglomeration of synthetic beauty and dance floor beats was formulated around Kevorkian's Mercitron Machine, whereas Let Us Die was a plea from the terminally ill for the right to put an end to their misery."