HBO Airs Kevorkian Movie on Saturday.
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.
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.