There are times throughout the history of the United States when it’s citizens have felt the need to revolt
against the government. One way they might revolt against the government is to disregard the law
peacefully. There was such a case during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when there was unfair
discrimination against the African American community. They used peaceful protests to eventually get
legislation passed to stop the injustice brought against them. Another name for this is called civil
disobedience. A more recent case of civil disobedience involves Dr. Jack Kevorkian who is an activist for
the right to die. Dr. Kevorkian believes that a person should not have to go through the pain of being kept
alive by machines. There are times when a person can no longer handle such things as terminal illness. Dr.
Kevorkian breaks the law openly for what he believes in knowing fully of the consequences.
In an article out of a May 9th, 1996 edition of The Sacramento Bee reads that “Kevorkian attends
another suicide”, tells about Dr. Jack Kevorkian attending another assisted death during a recess in his
current trial. Austin Bastable, a Canadian right-to-die activist who had multiple sclerosis killed himself
May 6th with the help of Dr. Kevorkian who reportedly gave Bastable the mask and carbon monoxide
canister. Bastable felt that his death was for the fight of freedom to have the right to die under such
conditions as his. In the article it tells us that hours early that same day he testified in his assisted-suicide
trial in the deaths of two women in 1991. Michael Modelski, a former prosecutor said “It’s an in-your-face
kind of thing”, He also goes on to say “It’s par to the course. He’s a loose cannon”. Modelski feels Dr.
Kevorkian shows no respect for the law.
This is the 28th assisted-suicide Dr. Kevorkian has attended since 1990. He is currently on trial
for the two assisted-suicides of two women in 1991. The article also reads that some assisted-suicide
supporters were taken back by his actions. State Senator Jim Berryman said he finds Dr. Kevorkian’s
methods offensive. He also said “He really continues to flaunt this in the face of the Legislature”.
Berryman feels that the focus is more on Dr. Kevorkian rather than the cause of death with dignity. The
Judge of the case has ordered the jury in Dr. Kevorkian’s trial not to read or listen to news accounts of the
case. If there are any jurors indicating that they have heard any of the latest new they would be removed
because of the influence it might have on them. There are four alternate jurors and the article reads if the
count falls below the 12 members there could be a mistrial. If the jurors get a hold of the news it could
influence them by giving them the feeling tha!
t Dr. Kevorkian has no respect for the law. It also might be seen as a man with strong beliefs who does the
right no matter what the law.
In Henry David Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, he tells us that he refused to pay
poll taxes and he was once sent to jail for not paying his taxes. He believed strongly that he should not
have to pay these taxes and would rather end up in jail then go against his will. A certain passage shows
how strong he felt when he said “Your money our you life,” why should I haste to give it my money?
(Thoreau). Thoreau’s strong beliefs are seen in what he did and Dr. Kevorkian’s case is very similar to
what Thoreau does in breaking the law.
Dr. Martin Luther King used peaceful sit-ins and rallies to unite the black community. This was a
very effective way of showing that they would not stand for the unjust discrimination. They used methods
such as banning the busses and instead walked. The busses could not afford to go without their business
and this hurt them enormously. Such protests as these caused the passing of legislation that gave equal
rights to all. King protested without breaking the law such as Dr. Kevorkian does. Dr. Kevorkian breaks
the law willingly and openly. He does what he feels is right no matter what the law says. According to
King I think that he might be justified because of the issue Dr. Kevorkian is dealing with. There is not as
much support and publicity of the topic as there is with civil rights for the minorities. Dr. Kevorkian is
only assisting the person wanting to die and I think King would support his acts because the effectiveness
that Dr. Kevorkian gets across in doing !
what he does.
Dr. Kevorkian is fighting for people’s right to die. He wants people in situations such as Bastable
where he has been suffering from multiple sclerosis to be able to decide that they no longer with to endure
the pain and suffering. Dr. Kevorkian attends these assisted suicide cases and usually will assist in the
death of the suffering victim. He does this openly and willingly knowing that he could be punished under
the law. I feel that Dr. Kevorkian’s protest may not be a peaceful one but I do not feel that it is a violent
one. Dr. Kevorkian is not out there threatening high government officials or bombing anything he is just
doing what he believes in. You also may not classify his protest as a peaceful one because he is breaking
the law without regard to it. He shows his openness with breaking the as stated in this article where just
hours after testifying in another trial about assisted-suicide he goes to a home and assists in a suicide. He
openly breaks the law but!
it’s not in harmful against society. The people that he assists are right to die advocates. They just as well
as he believes in the right to die and if he where not there to assist them someone else would be. The have
decided to no longer live for such reasons as terminal diseases and they will kill themselves. In this case
breaking the law will get others to recognize what is going on and it will make them aware that you would
like the right to die if you felt it became necessary.
I feel that the laws Dr. Kevorkian is breaking are his way of protesting. The way he goes about
breaking the law is very open, this makes us question whether his methods are justified. Dr. Kevorkian
knows what consequences can result in his forwardness. His fight is justified because assisting death is
only assisting. The person choosing to die must already have decided for whatever reasons they can no
longer live with the physical pains afflicted on them. They are only using Dr. Kevorkian, as a tool for other
people to know what they believe is right. One way or the other if the person has already chosen to die
they will kill themselves assisted or not.
If the laws were changed because of Dr. Kevorkian and supporters protest, I feel that it would give
many supporters a dignified death, not be an invitation for suicide. Life is the most important thing on this
earth and most fight with everything they have to hang on to it. If the law were different it would give
those few that have decided to die a dignified death rather than having broken the law to die. In Austin
Bastable’s case his death would not have to try to help the fight for freedom of dying but rather he could go
peacefully because he could no longer handle the pain of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Kevorkian’s protest in the right to die defies the law and many of his supporters also defy the
law. Their protest is not one that harms or endangers innocent bystanders, rather it only carries out the will
of specific people choosing to die. Dr. Kevorkian does not assist anyone in dying who asks. Dr. Kevorkian
does not go around helping anyone with suicide he is there for special purposes. He assists in deaths
because of the person’s living situation such as a terminal illness that brings them pains they can no longer
bear. He will help these people in dying no matter what the law is which shows how strongly of an
advocate and believer he is in the right to die. Dr. Kevorkian’s and supporters are a prime example of civil
disobedience; breaking an unjust law.