Thursday, April 22, 2010

HBO Airs Kevorkian Movie on Saturday.

And the media is abuzz with news about the movie. Here are some clips:

From conservative Human Events:

It’s not hard to guess where the folks behind the new biopic of Dr. Jack Kevorkian stand on the topic of physician-assisted suicide

HBO’s “You Don’t Know Jack,” debuting at 9 p.m. EST April 24 on HBO, recalls the later years of the man known by many as Dr. Death.

The network’s original content routinely leans left, sometimes only by a matter of degrees (“The Trials of Ted Haggard“), other times without check (“Recount”).

So expecting a fair and balanced debate on assisted suicides from the critically hailed cable channel seems unwise.

You Don't Know Jack isn't a "news story" on Fox. It's a movie. I don't think fair and balanced was one of the mandates. But clearly, because the movie purports to make Kevorkian a human being, opponents are claiming -- and they may be right, I haven't seen it yet -- that assisted suicide is made warm and fuzzy. Well, so is unwanted pregnancy, poverty, working 80 hours a week, dying in war or dying in a hospital in pain....

Final Exit Network, in a press release about the movie, gets one thing right:

Advances made in medicine over the last 50 years have been astonishing. Thanks to sophisticated new technologies and treatments, diseases once considered death sentences are now manageable conditions. The progress is often, however, a mixed blessing. Doctors' once-revered vow to keep patients alive - no matter what - often results not in extending life but extending death. Perpetuating "life" in a nightmare of powerlessness, constant pain, social isolation, and mental deterioration is tantamount to torture.

This is what the Kevorkian movie should have us talking about. And why it is so easy to paint Kevorkian as either a saint or a killer because he chose to address these issues.

From the Star Phoenix:

When he was writing the screenplay for the HBO biographical TV movie You Don't Know Jack -- about the right-to-die activist who famously, and infamously, championed the right of terminal patients to die by physician-assisted suicide -- Mazer says the last thing he wanted to do was fall into the old TV trap of cliches.

Mazer wrote his screenplay long before he learned Al Pacino would be cast to play the Michigan pathologist who would earn the nickname "Dr. Death."

Kevorkian famously served eight years in prison for second-degree murder after video of him administering a lethal injection was shown during a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace in November 1998.

"We didn't set out to do a movie about assisted suicide," Mazer explained. "It is a movie about Jack Kevorkian." And Jack Kevorkian is a much more complicated person than the public picture suggests, Mazer said.

Avoiding the trap of cliches. And finding out more about Kevorkian.

If I get a chance to watch the HBO premier on Saturday I'll come back with my own review.

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Blogger Stephen Drake said...

That's not the only thing we should be talking about. The other thing that strikes people like me - one of the 40+ disability activists who stuck it out through Kevorkian's trial and sentencing - is how easy it is for the public, the press and "responsible" assisted suicide advocates like yourself to forgive and forget anyone who conflates disability/chronic illness/terminal as Kevorkian and the Final Exit Network have done.

Way back in 1997, an analysis of the first 47 people in Kevorkian's body count - by the Detroit Free Press - estimated that at least 60% of the people who killed themselves with his help weren't terminal at all.

I've discussed a couple of distortions of Kevorkian's real track record on my blog - and that's just from what I've gleaned from the reviews and the HBO site.

I don't suppose you, C&C, etc. want to discuss how easy it is for the public to write off people with MS, spinal cord injury, etc. as "dying?"

April 22, 2010 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Ann Neumann said...

Hi Stephen,

Thanks so much for stopping by. I absolutely agree that the conflation of disability and terminal diagnosis should not be.

So if you're game, as I am, let's have that discussion right here and right now. I suggest we -- me and you, and anyone else interested in weighing in -- host a conversation regarding just that. We co-post and co-host on our sites and we work, as we should, to tear away at the walls of misunderstanding that surround disability and assisted suicide.

Ever see the "dialogue" that Barry Lynn and Jay Sekulow are having at Beliefnet?

Let's use the same format -- letters back and forth -- to ask questions, make comments, but ours will be a mutual investigation, with the joint objective of sussing out the areas in which assisted suicide and disability touch, overlap, pervert, distort, confuse, aid, complicate, enlighten and clarify patients' rights.

This is not an antagonistic challenge but a sincere desire for increased and dedicated dialogue. What do you say?

Very best, Ann

April 22, 2010 at 7:53 PM  

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