The Kevorkian Papers

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Great Minds Comment from the Grave

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As a kind of "virtual seance," I submit the following "testimony" in the "Court" of pure reason and true justice to rebut that of authoritative individuals in various professional disciplines concerned with the now politicized issues of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia---(for which I have coined the medically more scientific and accurate name of "patholysis," the elimination of suffering. 

Einstein1 replies to state governors and legislators: "For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. Lincoln, too, stated that "the best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." Einstein further said that "the state should be our servant and not we its slaves....Political leaders or governments owe their position partly to force and partly to popular election. They cannot be regarded as representatives of the best elements, morally or intellectually, in their respective nations (all emphasis added)....The government is itself an evil insofar as it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny."

To judges, prosecutors, politicians, and theologians, he opines that "an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality....

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary....Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees....For apart from the knowledge which is offered by accumulated experience and from the rules of logical thinking, there exists in principle for the man in science no authority whose decisions and statements could have in themselves a claim to "truth."

To me and to the general public, Einstein says: "Only the individual can think and thereby create new values for society, nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms....External compulsion can, to a certain extent, reduce but never cancel the responsibility of the individual." In the Nuremberg trials this idea was considered to be self-evident. Whatever is morally important in our institutions, laws, and mores can be traced back to interpretation of the sense of justice of countless individuals. Institutions are in a moral sense impotent unless they are supported by the sense of responsibility of living individuals."

"In long intervals I have expressed an opinion on public issues whenever they appeared to me so bad and unfortunate that silence would have made me feel guilty of complicity....In talking about human rights today, we are referring primarily to the following demands: protection of the individual against arbitrary infringement by other individuals or by the government....There is, however, one other human right which is infrequently mentioned but which seems destined to become very important: that is the right or the duty, of the individual to abstain from cooperating in activities which he considers wrong or pernicious....The Nuremberg trial of the German war criminals was tacitly based on the recognition of the principle that criminal actions cannot be excused if committed on government orders; conscience supersedes the law of the state." James Madison agreed that conscience is the most sacred of all property.

To politicians and the clergy Einstein says: "In many cases a leader, or a ruler, or a privileged class whose position rests on other factors combines priestly functions with its secular authority in order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the priestly caste make common cause in their own interests...That primitive religions are based almost entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard."

Jefferson had earlier stressed this point: "In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in legion with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own."

Finally, the opinions that really count now echo through me from the graves of preeminent and highly esteemed physicians:

At the age of 83, after 33 operation while suffering for 16 years from cancer of the jaw, Dr. Sigmund Freud concluded that "now it is nothing but torture...and makes no sense any more".2 His physician, Dr. Max Schur, reported that, "When he was in agony, I gave him two centigrams of morphine. I repeated this dose after about 12 hours. He lapsed into a coma and did not wake up again." He died with dignity at his chosen time.

Lord Dawson, a Member of the English Parliament and physician to King GeorgeV, reported his experience: "The King was too tired, for it must be remembered he had carried on to the end of his road....(I)t was evident that the last stage might endure for many hours, unknown to the patient but little comporting with that dignity which he so richly merited and which demanded a brief final scene. Hours of waiting just for the mechanical end when all that is really life has departed only exhausts the onlookers and keeps them so strained that they cannot avail themselves of the solace of thought, communion or prayer. I therefore decided to determine the end, and myself did the injection of ¾ gr. of morphia and shortly afterwards one gr. of cocaine into the distended jugular vein....This is something which belongs to the wisdom and conscience of the medical profession and not to the realm of euthanasia on which almost silently agreement now exists."3

The famous Dr. William Harvey, physician and anatomist who discovered how blood circulates, died in London in 1657 at the age of 80, "it is said from the effects of opium which he had taken with suicidal intent to escape the suffering from painful gout4."

Dr. Walter C. Alvarez, a leading physician, philosopher, teacher, and medical columnist, said and wrote a generation ago, "I still think that that poor man, with his terrible pain, should have had a legal right to commit suicide, and that I should have had the right to get him the drug for which he had begged....I feel that this problem of voluntary or obviously logical euthanasia can and should be left in the hands of us physicians5."

My final statement and unalterable position

In his letter, dated 16 May 1953, to a teacher who refused to testify (about theoretical physics) before a Congressional committee, Einstein wrote: "The reactionary politicians have managed to instill suspicion of all intellectual efforts into the public by dangling before their eyes a danger from without. Having succeeded so far, they are now proceeding to suppress the freedom of teaching and to deprive of their positions all those who do not prove submissive, i.e., to starve them."6

"What ought the minority of intellectuals to do against this evil? I can only see the revolutionary way of non-cooperation in the sense of Gandhi's....Every individual who is called before one of the committees ought to refuse to testify, i.e., he must be prepared for jail and economic ruin; in short, for the sacrifice of his personal welfare in the interest of the cultural welfare of the country."1

However, this refusal to testify must not be based on the well-known subterfuge of invoking the Fifth Amendment against possible self-incrimination, but on the assertion that it is shameful for a blameless citizen to submit to such inquisition, and that this kind of inquisition violates the spirit of the Constitution.

Now I, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, am being repeatedly called before one of those evil committees facetiously dubbed "courts of justice." I am a blameless citizen steadfastly committed to the re-implementation and unconditional preservation of the basic human rights, explicitly guaranteed by the hitherto unused and forgotten, perfectly understandable Ninth Amendment in our Constitution: the right of any mentally competent adult to request medical assistance to curtail intolerable and irremediable pain or incapacitation; and the right of qualified and competent physicians to comply with that request and provide the needed assistance. Such rights were long ago guaranteed by the Founders, and always available and honored in the more genuine democracy of ancient Hippocratic Greece.

Because I know that Einstein was much wiser than are any of the critics who infest those evil committees, I choose to heed his admonitory counsel. I choose to adopt the legacy of high moralists such as Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, and Margaret Sanger, a legacy which reinforces the wisdom of my own conscience in refusing to cooperate with socially criminal behavior, mandated by our cryptic totalitarian state, which infringes and makes a mockery of, the highest law of the land specifically designed, worded, and inserted by James Madison himself. Therefore, I will always disregard any arbitrary apposite injunction or decree such as that inflicted on me by any "morally"outraged judge such as the dishonorable Alice Gilbert, and more recently the immoral and thoroughly corrupt "judge" Jessica Cooper.

Finally, in accordance with the dictum of the 1947 Nuremberg Tribunal cited above by Einstein, I vow that my conscience will always supersede the " law" of any atavistic state.


1.Einstein, A: Ideas and Opinions. Bonanza, NY, 1964.

2.Edwards, T: The New Dictionary of Thoughts. Classic, NY, 1936.

3. Krantz, S: Supplement to the Law of Corrections and Prisoners' Rights, Sec.2,

chap. 6, West Publ. Co., St. Paul, 1977, 28.

4. Koch, A and Peden, W: The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson.

Modern Library, NY, 1944, 629.

5. Ogden HVS (ed): Utopia. Appleton-Century-Crofts, NY, 1949, 57.

6. Anonymous: Twain pleaded for death. The Detroit News, 19 Nov 1988, 1.

7. Cant, G: When death is better than life. Time, 16 Jul 1973, 37.

8. Watson F: The death of George V. History Today, 36: Dec 1986, 21-30.

9. Nimmo, W P: Clergymen and Doctors: Curious Facts and Characteristic

Sketches. J B Lippincott, Philadelphia, (no date), 37.

10. Alvarez, W C: Death with dignity. The Humanist, Sep/Oct, 1971, 12-14.

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