HBO film celebrates Jack Kevorkian

HBO film celebrates Jack Kevorkian

In a long tradition of taking on controversial issues, HBO will be airing an original movie this month celebrating the life of Dr. Jack Kevorkian—or better known as Dr. Death. The film, You Don’t Know Jack, stars Al Pacino as Jack Kevorkian alongside John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Danny Huston and follows the life and battles of the man who brought the issue of physician-assisted suicide into every home in the United States.

Kevorkian became famous in the ‘80s and ‘90s for being one of the most vocal and it could be argued theatrical supporters of the “right to die” and physician-assisted suicide. He claimed to have assisted in at least 130 suicides in his career and invented two machines, the Mercitron and Thanatron, designed to assist in the work.

Throughout the 90s, Kevorkian was tried several times for assisting suicides but was not found guilty until 1998, when he filmed the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk and aired it on the TV-show 60 Minutes. He was found guilty of second-degree murder by a Michigan jury and served 8 years in prison.


The movie will air April 24 on HBO, but the trailer gives a pretty clear idea of how the film will portray Kevorkian—as a man of mercy and a champion of human rights. Unfortunately, such a an emotionally loaded portrayal of euthanasia has enormous power in framing the issue in the minds of viewers. The simplistic story of a man relieving the suffering of the dying leaves little room for rational discussion of the reasons euthanasia is a dangerous practice that threatens the lives of societies most vulnerable.

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