Saturday, 4 June 2011


My obit of Dr Jack Kevorkian is up on the Guardian's website, you can link to it here. It's hard to know exactly what to make of Dr Death, and perhaps one can make too much of his defense of Nazi doctors in concentration camps, but it is hard to escape the feeling that he was, at heart, a badly-adjusted obsessive, and it is easy to see that like many obsessives, he was capable to great compassion to individuals but had great trouble extending it in theory. I called him the 'Ralph Nader of Death' in my copy, but that was cut from the piece as used.

I also wanted to try to compare him to William Burroughs, not just for their asceticism but for their attitude to death--but that was the stuff of a literary essay, not an obituary. It was telling that Kevorkian became a popular talk-show guest even as he was disavowed by most of the assisted-suicide community.

The Barry Levinson HBO film with Al Pacino sounds interesting, but on the face of it I get the feeling that Pacino's hot emotionalism might not be right. If he did 'crack' Dr Death, it would indeed deserve an Emmy.

And it was also fun to revisit Ron Rosenbaum's essay, Travels With Dr Death, which became the title-piece of his first, and probably best, collection of journalism. It was when he was really at his peak as an essayist, and Kevorkian provided him with the perfect fodder for one of his exegeses, almost a religious interpretation while being both perceptove and entertaining.

I also found myself wondering if a wrestling match between Kevorkian and Dr Sam Sheppard might have had any legs?

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