A Michigan judge sentenced Jack Kevorkian Tuesday to 10 to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder. The sentence ends Kevorkian’s nine-year crusade for doctor-assisted suicide, during which he helped more than 130 people end their lives. While the Michigan sentence ends Kevorkian’s life mission – at least until an appeals court hears the case – it has not ended the heated and emotional debate about doctor-assisted suicide.
Kevorkian was convicted of murdering Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Last September, Kevorkian videotaped himself killing Youk in an attempt to force prosecutors to bring charges against him. Kevorkian provided a video of the death to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” which broadcasted segments of it.
Kevorkian got the sentence he deserved. In a referendum last November, Michigan voters decided against legalizing assisted suicide. According to state law, he committed murder, plain and simple.
Beyond Kevorkian’s conviction remains the larger question of assisted suicide. No one wants to see people with terminal diseases suffer. Some people believe doctors should be allowed to help patients end their lives if they so choose. Others fear assisted suicide will lead down the road to euthanasia and the devaluation of human life.
In a free country, individuals have the right to live their lives as they see fit – as long as it does not harm anyone else. Individuals therefore have the right to end their lives as they see fit – as long as it doesn’t cause any harm. It is a decision that belongs not to a government, or a judge, or a religious group, but to the individual.
Kevorkian no longer practices assisted suicide and is most likely going to jail. But, he has initiated a national debate. People have a right to decide if they want to live or die, and sometimes the terminally ill need help carrying out their wishes. Kevorkian broke the law and should go to jail, but the law itself is unjust.