Goodbye, Dr. Kevorkian

July 11, 2011

Embracing Life

To Dr. Kevorkian,

CNS Photo/ Jim West

I wish your heart would have turned toward Truth. 130 lives were lost due to your assistance. Sometimes your patients died in the back of a Volkswagen van which was souped up with your lethal intravenous cocktails. You committed brutal acts against human dignity and only served seven years and two-and-a-half months in jail.

You claim that at The University of Michigan Med School, where you studied pathology, the Hippocratic Oath wasn’t discussed. This document describes ethical behavior for physicians: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” and, “Above all, I must not play at God.”

You were a “break-away” physician as described by Yolly Eileen A. Gamatan R.N.:

Breaking away from the traditional medical covenant of respect for life, new segments of medical professionals have reversed the end for which the science of medicine was founded, which is to heal and save lives. In their hands, the science of medicine has become instrumental for ending lives by abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. Lamentably, these break-away physicians have become instruments of death.

Life is a Gift

60 percent of your victims were NOT terminally ill, but lonely and depressed. reported, “persons who were divorced or had never married were overrepresented among those who died with Kevorkian’s help, suggesting the need for a better understanding of the familial and psycho-social context of decision-making at the end of life.”

The Most Reverend Father Peter Laird says:

We can never directly intend to kill an innocent human being.  In the case of assisted suicide, this simple truth acknowledges not only that life is a gift to be received, stewarded and fostered, but also that human beings are moral agents who are to do good and avoid evil.  Issues of depression and patient concerns for pain which often attend requests for assistance to die only reaffirm the truth that human beings who suffer terminal illness and/or great pain deserve our care, accompaniment and support.

Four Gifts of Hospice

Dr. Death, I wish you could have been more like my dad’s fishing buddy, Dr. Wayne Thaluber, who is a member of Assumption Parish and a retired internist. He is your antithesis and embraces life. For 42 years, Dr. Thalhuber worked at Our Lady of Good Counsel (Now called Our Lady of Peace Home), which is a hospice– meaning the staff specializes in the end of life. Their motto is: A spiritual place where patients and their families spend their final time together in peace and comfort.

Dr. Thalhuber said, “We fulfilled this statement by focusing on the whole patient. We’d work as a team to promote growth; to see the positive beauty at the end.”

 He explained to me that each patient’s family is guided through the Four Gifts of Hospice:

  1. Saying  “I’m sorry.”
  2. Saying “I love you.”
  3. Saying “Thank you.”
  4. Saying “Good bye…I’ll be okay.”

Dr. Thalhuber stated, “These gifts are very powerful. The family becomes a part of the goal. Hospice doesn’t merely focus on pain control, but treats the family’s relationships.”

Some Thoughts

HBO produced a movie called You Don’t Know Jack, starring Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman.  At the premier you had the honor to walk down the red carpet. Mr. Pacino received an Emmy and a Golden Globe award. In his acceptance speech he stated, that it was a pleasure “portraying someone as brilliant and interesting and unique as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.” (

Your “artwork” is sold in galleries.  Their grotesque scenes echo a horror film with decapitations and skulls.  I heard you sometimes painted with your own blood; as in the likeness you created of a child eating the flesh of a decomposing body.

I like to think that your mother, having fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, must have had respect for human life. How is it that such a hard-earned lesson was lost on you?  Didn’t she have you learn the fifth Commandment: Thou shall not kill? Did she ever teach you to respect the sick and dying by taking flowers to someone in the hospital or by mowing the lawn of an aged neighbor?

Last Breath of Life

“I learned about life from my dying patients and it was a privilege to witness this intimacy,” recalled Dr. Thalhuber –who did take the Hippocratic Oath, by the way, at St. Louis University Medical School in 1964. “I grew spiritually and professionally from my patients and their families because we discussed many more important things than just the weather and ballgames.”

And then The Good Doctor delivered one of my favorite points, “The end of life is one of the stages of living. There is a lot of potential for growth up until the last breath, and Dr. Kevorkian’s patients missed out on this beautiful gift.”


(I’d like to thank The Catholic Spirit staff for its guidance in getting this blog started. Also, I’d like to express my gratitude to Cecelia MacDonald, a professional editor and writer, for editing my work–You’re the best, Mom! Ditto to my sons for their technical expertise.)

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About Kathy Schneeman

After graduating from The College of St. Thomas, I taught at Nativity in St. Paul until our oldest was just about born in the classroom (What a great lesson on life that would have been for my students!) I then became a stay-at-home-mom while teaching religious education classes and working very part time at UST. Recently, I served as the Archdiocese's Life Coordinator in the Office for Marriage, Family and Life until twins arrived (I was almost 43!) When I have a few minutes of quiet time, I like to run, eat chocolates, scones and Mexican food (that's why I run), read, and have a beverage with my husband at night. We have a whopping nine kids (yes...same husband and same wife; we get that question a lot!) and we attend St. Joseph's in West St. Paul--where we first met when we were in grade school.

View all posts by Kathy Schneeman