The Magazine

The Serial Killer as Folk Hero

Kevorkian proceeds with his plan.

Jul 6, 1998, Vol. 3, No. 42 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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THE BODY OF HOMICIDE VICTIM Joseph Tushkowski underwent "a bizarre mutilation," proclaimed Oakland County (Mich.) medical examiner L.J. Dragovic in mid-June. According to the autopsy findings, the mutilator, after killing Tushkowski with a lethal injection, crudely ripped out his kidneys. He didn't even bother to remove the dead man's clothes, but simply lifted up the sweater, did his dirty work, and tied off the blood vessels with twine.

This is not a bizarre plot twist from the new X-Files movie. The despicable and gruesome act was committed by a team that included that ghoulish poster boy for "assisted suicide," Jack Kevorkian. He announced the deed proudly in a news conference earlier this month, during which he and his lawyer offered Tushkowski's organs for transplant, "first come, first served." There were no takers.

No one who has followed Kevorkian's eight-year killing spree can be shocked at this latest outrage. In his 1991 book Prescription: Medicide and other writings Kevorkian long ago alerted the world that he would take human organs from his victims. Indeed, just a few months ago, he promised to hold a press conference with jars containing human organs at his side.

Most of this hasn't penetrated into the public's consciousness. Perhaps some evil acts are too grotesque to comprehend. Or perhaps, rather than accept the harsh truth -- which would require an end to apathy and a rejection of assisted-suicide theory -- it has been easier for the public to swallow the assertion of Kevorkian's minister of propaganda, lawyer Geoffrey Feiger, that Kevorkian's only aim is to relieve human suffering. But that isn't his aim at all. Jack Kevorkian is in this for his own twisted purposes -- and his writings, public statements, and actions prove it.

Kevorkian has embarked on a three-pronged campaign to destroy traditional American medical ethics, a campaign that also gives him free rein to indulge his twisted obsessions. The first phase was to make "assisted suicide" seem routine and even banal, not so much to relieve suffering (which he called "an early distasteful professional obligation") as to make "possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts under conditions that this first unpleasant step can help establish." Phase Two, which he has now entered, is to harvest organs from his dead victims and offer them for use in transplants. This is intended to make the voluntary killing of despairing disabled and sick people seem beneficial to society. The third and final phase: Use assisted-suicide victims as experimental "subjects" before they die -- in other words, human vivisection.

Phase One of Kevorkian's quest succeeded beyond even his own wild expectations. Who would have believed in 1990, when Kevorkian committed his first assisted suicide, that he would go on to "assist" more than 100 victims without significant legal consequence, and be viewed by a bemused public as some village crank? It doesn't seem to have mattered to the jurors who have helped him escape prosecution -- or to the part of the public that sees him as a social reformer -- that approximately 80 percent of Kevorkian's victims were not terminally ill. Most of them have been people with disabilities, primarily multiple sclerosis but also arthritis and spinal-cord injury. Few care that two of the victims were not mentally competent, including a man who believed he was a KGB agent and a woman with late-stage Huntington's disease. Another six of Kevorkian's victims had no identifiable illness upon autopsy, including an 82-year-old woman who admitted in her suicide note that she just wanted to die. In Oakland County, Kevorkian's base of operations, prosecutor David Gorcyca won office in 1996 after promising to leave the one-time doctor alone.

Now a law unto himself, Kevorkian has opened his second phase, in which he intends to use disabled human beings as organ farms. There is purpose behind this madness. Kevorkian believes a disabled person who is not in suicidal despair to be "pathological." In an August 1990 court statement, Kevorkian wrote that "the voluntary self-elimination of individual and mortally diseased or crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare." He views the organs of the disabled as having greater value than disabled people themselves. It is thus no coincidence that Tushkowski, Kevorkian's first "organ donor," was disabled with a spinal injury.