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Humanists Mourn Death of Jack Kevorkian, Advocate for Death with Dignity

(June 3, 2010, Washington D.C.)  Today, leadership at the American Humanist Association mourned the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a physician, humanitarian, and brazen advocate for end-of-life choice. Dr. Kevorkian was given the Humanist Hero Award by the American Humanist Association in 1994. The American Humanist Association became one of the first national organizations to support end of life choices in a 1974 statement. 

“Dr. Kevorkian led the charge for the right of those who wanted the freedom to end their suffering,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “His unwavering determination in the face of protest, and even legal repercussions, was a testament to his strong conviction and compassion.”

Dr. Kevorkian spent much his career advocating for the legalization of euthanasia. With a strong sense of ethics, Kevorkian refused 97 percent of assisted suicide requests received, reserving his services for the terminally ill and suffering. 

“I am not a hero, either—by my definition anyway,” said Dr. Kevorkian at the 1994 American Humanist Association annual conference. “To me, anyone who does what should be done is not a hero. Heroes to me are very, very rare. And I still feel that I’m only doing what I, as a physician, should do… That doesn’t mean I’m more compassionate than anyone else, but there is one thing I am that many are not, and that’s honest.”

Though successfully challenging the law on numerous prior occasions, Dr. Kevorkian was charged with second degree murder for his efforts, and served 9 years in jail. He was paroled in 2007, last year Al Pacino played his role in the film You Don't Know Jack, reviewed in the Humanist magazine, and he continued to lobby for euthanasia’s legalization until his death at the age of 83. 

“Dr. Kevorkian’s contributions to medicine and humanity are great,” concluded Speckhardt. “He gave energy to the ‘death with dignity’ movement and brought this important civil liberties issue to the forefront.  History will thank him for that.”   

“Besides, what is ethics?” Kevorkian continued in his 1994 Humanist Hero speech. “Can you define it?  My definition is simple: ethics is saying and doing what is right at the time…doing the right thing changes with time.”

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.

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