By Kathleen Gilbert
April 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A biopic of Dr. Jack Kevorkian that portrays the famous mass-murderer in a sympathetic light is set to air on HBO Saturday night. Known to many as "Dr. Death," Kevorkian has admitted to murdering over 130 disabled, terminally ill, and healthy suicidal individuals.
"You Don't Know Jack," which stars Al Pacino and reportedly takes a lighthearted approach to Dr. Kevorkian's trail of murders that led to his national celebrity status, has already been shown in a premiere in New York last week. Another premiere is set to take place in Detroit on Thursday.
Kevorkian was recently released from parole after serving over eight years in prison for the second-degree murder of 52-year-old Lou Gherig's disease sufferer Thomas Youk. Although Kevorkian, 82, said in an interview last year that he was tempted to kill himself in prison, his lawyer talked him out of it; ironically, Kevorkian admitted that he would not have done the same in return.
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper last week, Kevorkian expressed satisfaction with the film, and affirmed that he was still willing to kill despairing people.
"I didn't do it to end the life. I did it to end the suffering the patient is going through. The patient is obviously suffering. What's a doctor supposed to do, turn his back? If he's a coward he is," said Kevorkian of the murders.
Asked about the "death panels" decried by Sarah Palin in the federal health care bill, Kevorkian dismissed the term as "fear mongering" because Palin "is religious, no doubt about it." "All the Catholic priests are not against this. But they keep quiet. Fear keeps control," he added.
“You Don’t Know Jack” Director Barry Levinson told Cooper that in Dr. Kevorkian's story he had discovered "an amazing journey of a man, you know, coming up against the system and ultimately a man that could not be intimidated in that way."
Pro-life activists are blasting the film as a whitewash of Kevorkian's deeply disturbing career.
"The revisionist project to create a fictional Jack Kevorkian as merely a lovable, if sometimes tactless, man of compassion – rather the misanthropic and ghoulish nut that he really is," said bioethics commentator Wesley Smith on his Secondhand Smoke blog on Thursday.
"To depict Kevorkian as merely idiosyncratic, you have to willfully refuse to report the full story in all of its macabre vividness," wrote Smith. "And that is something the media has done now for nearly two decades.
"But let us be clear: They don’t know Jack because they don’t want to know Jack."
In his 1991 book "Prescription Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death," Kevorkian admitted that his killing of "doomed persons" was "merely the first step" towards pursuing his greatest interest: "unfettered experimentation on human death," or "obitiatry," carried out on people who are in the throes of death.
Well before starting his career killing suicidal individuals, Kevorkian earned the moniker "Dr. Death" when, as a medical student, he would stay in hospital wards to watch people die. Later, he routinely sought to experiment on condemned prisoners as they died in executions, an interest that led to his expulsion from his hospital residency in 1958.
Of Kevorkian's victims, only about 70 percent were disabled and depressed. Five, upon autopsy, were found to be healthy. But Kevorkian's penchant for publicity brought at least a temporary end to the murders: the doctor was finally convicted and jailed after he videotaped his murder of Thomas Youk and offered the tape to "60 Minutes" to air.
After lawyers convinced a judge in 2007 that Kevorkian, a Hepatitis C sufferer, had only one year to live, he was released early from his 10-25 year sentence. Since then, Kevorkian has given talks for as much as $50,000-$100,000 a pop.
Kevorkian has also indulged his obsession with human suffering and despair, as well as his deep animus toward Christianity, in his artwork.
"It is a disturbing sign of the times that a man who is so clearly disturbed and a social outlaw, could be depicted as a hero," said Smith.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
"Dr. Death" Says he was Convinced to Embrace Life - But Would not Return the Favor
Al Pacino Set to Play “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian