Ethics, the Illegality of Physician Assisted Suicide in the United States, and the Role and Ordeal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian before His Death

  •  Hengameh Hosseini    


The paper tries to argue that physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which is opposed by the AMA and all US states except Oregon, is a moral and ethical dilemma that faces physicians, ethicists, legal experts, and others. To demonstrate this, the various dimensions of the debate are explored. This is accomplished by discussing the legal, ethical, medical and political ordeals of its most infamous practitioner, Dr. Jack Kevorkian of Michigan (1928-2011).
As the paper argues, Dr. Kevorkian’s belief in the practice of PAS led him to assist in the suicide of James Adkins in 1998. This began his legal problems, which lasted for about ten years (while continuing this practice, causing the state of Michigan to pass stricter laws against PAS). However, it was his more active administration of the suicide of Thomas York (who had Lou Gehrig’s disease), and its demonstration on CBS’ 60-Minutes program, that led to his most severe legal ordeal in 1998 that landed him a prison sentence of 10 to 25 years (of which he served 8).
In the paper, various ethical, moral, and legal arguments, evoked by ethicists, philosophers and legal experts are presented. However, the paper begins with the ordeal of Dr. Kevorkian and the reaction to the 60-Minutes piece by the media, religious authors, and others are presented.

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