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City Journal Spring 2014.
City Journal Current Issue
NEW BOOK FROM THEODORE DALRYMPLE:
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.
NOT WITH A BANG BUT A WHIMPER:
The Politics and Culture of Decline

by Theodore Dalrymple
Not With a Bang But a Wimper.
 
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Theodore Dalrymple
Avanti, Dr. Kevorkian!
There may be an overseas market for the doctor’s services.
12 June 2007

It’s strange how even closely allied nations do not take advantage of one another’s complementary strengths and resources. For example, I noticed this month a possible synergy between the United States and Italy: neither, as far as I am aware, has tried in any way to take advantage of it.

Jack Kevorkian was released on June 1 from prison, after serving eight years of a sentence for second-degree murder. Kevorkian, popularly known as Dr. Death, is an enthusiast of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and sees himself in the same light as civil rights protesters in Alabama in the 1950s. That is as it may be: but anyone who reads his autobiography is bound to conclude, as some of his colleagues did, that he is rather odd.

Before he turned his attention to mercy killing, Kevorkian argued for a new branch of medicine—namely, physiological experimentation on those condemned to death and about to be executed. His oddity is suggested not merely by the proposal itself, but by his surprise that his colleagues did not jump at it, and instead condemned it roundly. He attributed their resistance to conservatism, this being a pejorative term, of course.

Now it so happens that on the very day on which Kevorkian went free, 310 prisoners in Italy, condemned to life imprisonment for murder, petitioned the Italian president, requesting the reinstatement of the death penalty. An imprisoned chief of the Sicilian Mafia, Carmelo Musumeci, was the prime mover behind the petition, which read in part: “We ask that our life sentences be transformed into a death sentence. Our life is totally useless and means infinite suffering: a sentence that makes the future the same as the past, a past that crushes the present and eliminates any hope for the future.”

Surely there is an opportunity here for international cooperation of the best kind? It has long seemed paradoxical that many of those most strenuously opposed to the death penalty most fervently favor euthanasia, and not always the voluntary kind. It is seldom that such an ideological paradox can so neatly be resolved.

Avanti, Dr. Kevorkian! You have new worlds to conquer, especially since a condition of your parole is to take no part in euthanasia or assisted suicide. A change of jurisdictions would be just the thing. And I am sure that Signor Musumeci, as a small token of appreciation for being put out of his misery, would be happy to be experimented upon.

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More by Theodore Dalrymple:
To Have or to Be?
Cruel When Not Kind
Why Europe Sleeps
More . . .
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