You Don’t Know Jack


Euthanasia is a topic I’m interested in, so I was excited when I came across this 2011 DVD, You Don’t Know Jack (The Life and Deaths of Jack Kevorkian).

Al Pacino plays Dr Jack Kevorkian, who came to be known as Dr Death because of his Mercitron Machine and for performing assisted suicide. Blunt, fiesty and stubborn, Dr Jack dares to challenge the rules by which we live and die as he believes that “struggling to die is not equal to living”.

Planned death is gaining acceptance all over the world. Man being kept alive againist his wishes needs help to end his life with humanity. The Mercitron Machine will end all suffering and give death meaning. The patients would release the solution on his own because it is illegal for the doctor to give the injection. Taking a couple of months before other doctors finally take off the life support is a brutal way to die. If a patient is allowed to die, then with this injection, it will be painless and quick. It’s inconceivable and unspeakable to let the patient wither away.

For a patient of Alzheimer’s disease, the diagnosis would be like a bomb that has dropped. Losing control over the brain is frightening. a patient should have the choice to refuse to die a slow death. Dr Jack does not care what other people think; it is what the patient feels that matters. It is the terror of being lost, when one is running out of time.

Each person should be allowed to choose his/her own life or death. In dignity. When a patient in agony dies, then a doctor’s true calling implies: one should do what is best at the patient’s request. For a humane, quick painless demise.

Self-determination is a basic human right and everyone should have it. Dr Jack’s first two patients were very sick and wonderful women who died of their own choosing. The act of assisted suicide is not a crime of law. All doctors think they are God. They shouldn’t, but they do. (When a group of demonstrators confronted Dr Jack, he told them his God is Johannes Sebastian Bach, and not an invented one.)

A person should be in control of his life and death, and Dr Jack gives people a choice whether or not they want to suffer. He is the most public symbol of the euthansia movement. Is euthanasia always murder? There’s no answer for this. Is it always a homicide? Yes. But homicide is not necessarily murder. This syllogism is simple arithmetics, a mathematical conclusion. Euthanasia releases a patient from his suffering. There is no intent for murder. Instead, mercy killing is really a medical service for an agonised, incurably suffering patient. How can you compare euthanasia with genocide?

For all that he has done, (assisting in the deaths of more than 130 patients), Dr Jack spent eight-and-a-half yers in prison. With all his faults and eccentricities (especially with regards to painting* and music#), Dr Jack continues to go ahead and do what he does. He has reframed death.

* Dr Jack’s paintings are bizarre and interesting, about the brutality of human nature and shows the hypocricy of society.

# The music used here, besides a half a dozen songs, include several pieces by J S Bach (eg Goldbery Variations played by Glenn Gould, the Cello Suites played by Yo-Yo Ma, a Partita and an Organ Fugue sung by The Swingle Singers.


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