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June 06, 2011 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-06

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Monday, June 6, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


From Page 1
sions, said Kevorkian "was a
major historical figure in modern
However, Markel said that
while Kevorkian sparked conver-
sation about suicide for those not
necessarily struggling with men-
tal health issues like depression,
he might not have taken the right
"(Kevorkian) sent the right
message, if you believe that, but
he was the wrong messenger,"
Markel said.
As a person, Markel said Kev-
orkian was opinionated and "held
his own" and because of this
never doubted his personal verac-
ity in his beliefs.
"I never questioned his integ-
rity in what he believed in,"
Markel said.
John Finn, medical direc-
tor of palliative care at St. John's
Hospital and former executive
medical director of Hospice of
Michigan, knew Kevorkian and
described the doctor as someone
he respected despite the fact that
he found him to be "a very bizarre
"He's not a man you can have
a conversation with," Finn said.
"When you looked in his eyes,
they were empty like black holes.
You'd get a chill."
Finn, however, credited Kev-
orkian with attempting to solve
the problems of the American
healthcare system, though he
said he believes his methods were
"He identified the problem,
which is physicians failing in
-their responsibilities to relieve
suffering, but his methods were
unorthodox and inappropriate,"
he said.
He added that many of Kev-
orkian's patients were isolated,
lonely and potentially depressed
and therefore in no state to
mindfully choose whether to live
or die. Throughout his career,
Finn said he's seen that people
who are terminally ill usually
want to live longer, so Kevork-
ian's patients were atypical and
with certain assistance may have
chosen to live out their natural
In a June 3 press conference,
Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's
lawyer for his trials throughout
the 1990s, said that while others
challenged Kevorkian's motives,
he stayed strong in his beliefs.
"When politicians and
churchmen and medical societ-

ies asserted their claim that only
they could make decisions for suf-
fering and dying people, Dr. Jack
Kevorkian had the strength of his
own conviction to risk his own
freedom, and at times, his own
life for the rights of his patients,"
Fieger said.
Fieger added that Kevork-
ian revolutionized the concept
of suicide by working to help
people end their own suffering
because he believed physicians
are responsible for alleviating
the suffering of patients, even if
that meant allowing patients to
"Dr. Jack Kevorkian didn't
seek out history, but he made his-
tory," Fieger said.
Maria Silveira, professor
of internal medicine, said she
became involved with palliative
care in part because of the atten-
tion Kevorkian brought to the
complex issue of unintended suf-
"(He) had a tremendous
impact and fueled the public
awareness of unintended suffer-
ing and the need to address it,"
Silveira said.w
Silveira added that the atten-
tion he received especially affect-
ed the legal code of Michigan and
pushed legislators to make assist-
ed suicide illegal in 1994 as well
as lead to the development of the
Michigan Advisory Committee
on Pain and Symptom Manage-
Peter Jacobson, professor
of health law and policy in the
School of Public Health, said he
disagrees with the belief that
Kevorkian greatly impacted the
medical system. He said that in a
time when debate over the issue
was desperately needed, Kevork-
ian brought attention to himself
rather than the patients who
needed care.
"He deflected the impor-
tant debate with the potentially
criminal behavior of his actions,"
Jacobson said. "Juries didn't like
how he went about his actions,
but a lot of the people would like
the choice (of what care they
Jacobson added that in a sys-
tem where it is acceptable to aid
patients in death, it is necessary
to have checks in place - like
two observing physicians and a
more careful analysis of patients'
cases to see if their illnesses can
be treated - in order to best serve
the public.
- The Associated Press
contributed to this report.


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