Last updated on: 4/26/2010 | Author:

Did Dr. Jack Kevorkian Ethically Serve the Best Interests of His Patients?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Paul D. Simmons, PhD, Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, wrote in Faith and Health: Religion, Science, and Public Policy, published in 2008:

“The ethical question about assisted suicide is much larger than attitudes toward Dr. Kevorkian, of course. Other physicians have also assisted patients to commit suicide. Kevorkian was the most visible and outspoken physician associated with the practice and the ethical questions that attend that debate, but he is by no means alone in pushing the issue. Are such physicians a friend or foe to moral medicine? Was Kevorkian’s suicide machine a symbol of a moral horror that should enrage the public and be outlawed in every state legislature, or was it a welcome sign of hope in the midst of a technological takeover at the end of life? What of the future? Will other forms of assisted death become commonplace as we enter a new era of medicine?”


PRO (yes)


Jack Kevorkian, MD, former pathologist, stated in a June 4, 2007 interview with Larry King on CNN’s Larry King Live:

“King: Wasn’t it hard, though, even though I know you were taking people out of pain, wasn’t it hard for a doctor who takes that oath to administer life to help people die?

Kevorkian: Well, it’s not to help them die. See, everyone’s got this backwards. It’s to relieve them of their intolerable and unending suffering. The patient’s wish – see, that’s not my wish. And that’s what… Hippocrates says. He says you are the servant of the patient. The servant. But doctors today consider themselves, you know, the overlord of the patient. They’ve got that twisted backwards.

So I’ve got to do what the patient requires. So I always felt that their wish comes first, no matter what.”

June 4, 2007


The American Ethical Union released this Dec. 11, 1993 Resolution titled “Dr. Kevorkian and Assisted Suicide” by its Board of Directors:

“WHEREAS, the American Ethical Union supports the right of each individual to make the critical decisions about his/her own life, including the right to terminate it when it is no longer bearable, and

WHEREAS, Dr. Kevorkian’s actions have been declared illegal by the State of Michigan under a law that is being challenged as unconstitutional,

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of the American Ethical Union deplores the action of the State of Michigan with respect to Dr. John Kevorkian and urges that he be set free pending the disposition of the case challenging the constitutionality of the law the has refused to obey.”

Dec. 11, 1993


Terry Youk, brother of Thomas Youk, a Lou Gehrig’s Disease sufferer whose videotaped euthanasia by Dr. Kevorkian prompted Kevorkian’s 1999 first-degree murder trial and conviction, stated in a Feb. 25, 2009 CBS News Online interview:

“I of course felt that Jack [Kevorkian] never should have gone to prison I don’t believe that the medical service that he provided my brother and others is a crime. I think people look back and see that Jack was the only person that was willing to stand up during a divisive time and fight for what should be a right for all human beings to have choices at the end of their life.

I think Jack provided for people that had fallen through the cracks of the health care system a way to die with some peace and dignity. Ultimately, Jack Kevorkian was our only option…

I am very grateful to Jack Kevorkian. I feel like he was a compassionate practitioner for my brother at the end of his life.”

Feb. 25, 2009


Mike Wallace, Correspondent Emeritus and Co-founder of CBS 60 Minutes, stated in a May 18, 2006 USA Today article titled “Mike Wallace Grilled about His Favorite Interviews”:

“[Jack Kevorkian is] a decent and compassionate man who tried to help people get out of the suffering of their lives… [Kevorkian’s incarceration amounts to] cruel and unusual punishment.”

May 18, 2006

CON (no)


The American Medical Association (AMA), in an Oct. 10, 1995 letter by then AMA General Counsel Kirk Johnson to then Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, stated the following:

“By invoking the physician-patient relationship to cloak his actions, Jack Kevorkian perverts the idea of the caring and committed physician, and weakens the public’s trust in the medical profession.

The AMA establishes the Code of Ethics for the medical profession. One of the fundamental principles of that code is that physicians must not act with the intent of causing the death of their patients. Physician-assisted suicide is simply incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. When faced with patients who are terminally ill and suffering, physicians must relieve their suffering by providing adequate comfort care.

This obligation is paramount: It is ethical for physicians to provide effective pain medication even if the medication may have the side effect of suppressing respiration and hastening death…

[N]o civilized society should condone assisted suicide as practiced by Jack Kevorkian. Mr Kevorkian’s actions are not those of a primary treating physician. Rather, he serves merely as a reckless instrument of death.”

Oct. 10, 1995


Wesley J. Smith, JD, Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute, wrote in a 1997 book titled Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder:

“The acceptance of Jack Kevorkian is evidence of the progressive decay of the American culture. This failed pathologist

  • has written that his ultimate goal is to conduct live human medical experiments on dying people, including infants and children
  • wants to create suicide encters ‘for all those who need or desire it’

That such a man is tolerated, much less respected, by millions of people speaks volumes about how far we have already fallen down the death culture’s slippery slope.”



Patrick Buchanan, MA, Columnist and Political Analyst for MSNBC, wrote in a Mar. 7, 1993 Opinion article titled “Is Smiling Kevorkian Face of the Future?” in the Southeast Missourian:

“Kevorkian is not a doctor; he is not a friend, counselor or healer of the sick. He has no expertise or healer of the sick. He has no expertise in treating cancer, heart disease, emphysema, Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis, the real maladies of his ‘patients.’ Smiling Jack is a terminator, a serial mercy killer of the suicidally depressed, a disgrace to medicine who belongs in a padded cell or prison dorm with the convicted killers whose vital organs this defrocked quack was once so anxious to collect.”

Mar. 7, 1993


Raphael Cohen-Almagor, DPhil, Chair of the Department of Politics and International Politics at the University of Hull in Hull, England, wrote in The Right to Die with Diginity: An Argument in Ethics, Medicine, and Law published in 2001:

“Kevorkian’s missionary vigor, like any unqualified vigor, betrays the best interests of patients and ill serves the interests of society. The United States as well as other democracies should devise ways to stop Kevorkian and like-minded doctors, to think creatively to comply with the genuine desires of all patients in this modern, technologically advanced era of medicine, and to help doctors who feel that sometimes termination of life is necessary.”