Time for our grim reaper 

November 4 was not a good day, to put it mildly, for Team Death.

Mounting vote totals showed Geoffrey Fieger, former attorney general of assisted suicide, losing overwhelmingly, worse than Howard Wolpe even.

Proposal B, which would have permitted snuffaid in selected cases, was creamed by an even bigger margin, thanks to the Catholics having opened up their treasury.

Later that day, a Royal Oak jury found the K guilty of roughing up a policeman.

Would he take the 90 days Slimfasting in the slam? Surprisingly, no.

"Something I gotta do," he mumbled, paying his fine and scuttling out. Within hours, I learned what, when he suggested we meet in the usual place, behind the tall tombstones at White Chapel, where I get my normal payoff for being his PR agent.

"Do you have Mike Wallace's phone number?" he asked me (this part, as Dave Barry might say, is really true). Having served on a committee with Wallace, I did, but hastened to disillusion Kevo. "I know he is past 80, but really, Mike feels fine."

That wasn't it; he wanted euthanasia's First Flight shown on "60 Minutes." I made the call, made no promises, and the rest is his story. Or history; as of this writing, we aren't quite sure which. As the world now knows, Waterford Township's Thomas Youk wanted Kevorkian to help him die, and Kevo killed him.

Now what?

Jack Kevorkian wants, desperately wants, a trial. Not only that; he wants a trial on what he sees as the core issue itself, without legal trickery, which is why he replaced Geoffrey Nels Fieger and Co. with one very young and presumably malleable attorney.

Well, to my way of thinking, Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca would be as derelict in his duty as the medical profession is on this issue if they don't try him. Essentially, the pathologist's core proposition is ridiculous:

Kevorkian is issuing society this ultimatum: Either try, convict and jail me, or grant me carte blanche to kill anyone without penalty or even hassle.

Anyone, that is, who Kevo thinks wants and medically merits death, using the term "medically" in the broadest possible sense.

No one can buy into that. Except there is very little reason to believe that a jury will ever convict Kevorkian. Three trials that were, on paper, no-brainers for the prosecution ended in acquittals.

Politically, he has gotten smarter, too. Poor, wide-eyed Tom Youk was no chronic fatigue or Alzheimer's patient, but a middle-aged man felled by the horror of Lou Gehrig's disease, with no hope of recovery and not much hope of a pleasant death. Four years ago, he was racing Porsches. Now, he was about to strangle helplessly on his spit.

Kevorkian wanted a test case. Youk was willing to let himself be lethally injected while staring into a home video camera propped up on a broken tripod in the living room of his tiny, modest home. The much-ballyhooed death scene itself was actually anticlimactic. Worse is shown on local news. Tom Youk literally just died in his sleep.

"From now on, I am going to do them all this way," unless the patient objects, Kevorkian said. But will he get to do any more at all? Kevo intends to wage this battle on his terms, like Ayn Rand's Howard Roark in The Fountainhead.

Here's what I did, he wants to tell a jury. Yes, I broke your corrupt law. Do you dare to convict me?

Trouble is, they are -- we are -- damned either way. If they do not, then he will consider himself "free to act," whenever, however he chooses.

What will there be to prevent a more sinister physician from doing the same thing, for money or power? Kevorkian, a man without material passions, is a sort of wacky libertarian anarchist, a political philosophy that is just swell for small groups of decent, well-to-do, well-educated mature adults insulated from the world.

Yet what if they do convict him and he starves himself to death?

What happens to the desperately suffering? How many more 90-year-old men will blow their 88-year-old wives' brains out with the family pistol -- a fairly common occurrence -- and then do the same to themselves because they fear the horror and loss of dignity and financial ruin a nursing home may bring?

The answer is apparent. Some group of medical professionals has to take a stand; lay down guidelines -- not necessarily Kevorkian's -- and say this is a medical procedure, not a subject for law. We will help patients end their suffering if need be.

Then act on that. Take a chance. Help your patients, even at the risk of your pocketbooks. The far right would scream, yes. They did when anesthesia was introduced. Not to mention the concept of doctors washing their hands.

But -- first, do no harm, the ancient medical ethic would have it. Yes, right.

Letting Tom Youk strangle on his spit is doing more harm, anyone not blinded by ideology would have to agree, than letting him sleep away.

Tired of Kevorkian? You bet. So force medicine and society to do something about it. Here's a hint; the sufferings of the dying, with the boomers aging, aren't going away. Kevorkian once told me that when my time came, I'd be handed my pill; the insurance companies would force it on us. There has to be a better way.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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