So Jack Kevorkian is dead, and not by his own hand.
There's much to say about him, much that's interesting and intriguing. A good biography would read, in many respects, like an absurdist novel.
- Mad scientist becomes hero/villain social activist.
- Media fascinated.
- Tabloids go crazy.
- Goes to prison.
- Changes, in many respects, American culture.
I can see the movie now.
But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the death penalty.
Jack Kevorkian influenced that, too.
Put aside his interest in organ harvesting and the widely accepted view that his assisted suicide machines might be 8th Amendment friendly. The connection between assisted suicide (any kind of suicide, really) and executions makes the government uncomfortable. We don't do that, you understand, officials say with straight faces while insisting that the folks on death row who voluntarily give up their appeals must be permitted to be killed as they wish.
It's not assisted suicide, because they're not committing suicide. They're being killed at our insistance - but on our schedule. Though with their willingness and support.
If they try to commit suicide, after all, we'll stop them if we can, fix them up, and then kill them ourselves. If we accepted suicide, we'd just let them die.
So no, they can't kill themselves. They can't even help. We have to do it all.
And if they want it, too? Well, that's just a coincidence.
Certainly, they deserve the dignity of being allowed to choose not to fight, to choose to support the sentence, to ask the jury for it, to oppose judicial intervention. That's their right as humans.
But they don't have the right to kill themselves.
Only we have the right to kill.
Their only right is to be killed. By our hand.
Something's wrong with this picture.