Al Pacino Set to Play “Dr. Death” Jack
Variety magazine reports that director Barry Levinson has chosen Pacino
to play Kevorkian, 81, who killed more than 130 persons through lethal
injection administered by what he called his "Mercy Machine," between
1990 and 1999, when the Michigan justice system put his macabre
death-dealing career to an end.
The planned HBO biopic is based on literary paean, "Between the Dying
and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Assisted Suicide Machine and the
Battle to Legalize Euthanasia" written by Kevorkian friends, Harry
Wylie and Neal Nicol. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series
has the tentative title, “You Don’t Know Jack,” but given the
unapologetically laudatory nature of its source, critics are
questioning whether viewers will really know Jack by the end of it.
Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith notes in his blog that besides a legacy of
assisted suicide, Kevorkian “ripped out the kidneys of one of his
victims after death” and had a penchant for “obitiatry, that is,
experimenting on living human beings before they were euthanized.”
Ever on a quest to find live patients for his studies on the physiology
of death, Kevorkian had also experimented on dying cancer patients,
forcing their eyes open and taking photographs as they expired, before
turning to assisted suicide. He also sought out death row inmates who
would permit him to study them as they were executed, which prompted
his dismissal from his hospital residency in 1958.
Kevorkian also proposed, in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry,
establishing a series of euthanasia clinics, which he called
"obitoria," where physicians could terminate people who requested
death, beginning with the terminally ill and then culminating with
anyone who felt afflicted.
“You could not get a more ghoulish, solipsist public figure than
Kevorkian,” said Smith. “Yet, he is to be beatified, Hollywood style.
Color me absolutely disgusted.”
Executive producers of the HBO biopic are Levinson, Lydia Dean Pilcher,
Glenn Rigberg, and Steven Lee Jones. Jones obtained the movie rights to
the Wylie-Nicol book, and completed a feature-length documentary on
Kevorkian’s 2008 run for Congress, where he gained just 2.8% of the
vote for Michigan’s 9th District.
Kevorkian’s sordid career finally came to an end when he videotaped and
aired his 1998 killing of Michigan resident Thomas Youk, 52, on CBS'
"60 Minutes" show. Since Michigan had banned assisted suicide,
prosecutors had the evidence they needed to convict Kevorkian in 1999
of second-degree murder with a 10- to 25-year sentence.
However, Kevorkian was released on parole after only serving eight
years behind bars amidst pleading from his lawyer that the former
pathologist had less than a year to live. However, since his
release Kevorkian has pursued a variety of routes to promote assisted
suicide (although his parole forbids him to describe how to kill
someone), has run for Congress, and gives speeches that cost anywhere
between $50,000 – $100,000 per speaking engagement.
In a speech last year at the University of Florida in Gainsville,
Kevorkian lectured students that every “law is an infraction of
liberty” and said that the legislative branch was in the hands of “the
tyrant,” who was blocking his rights to not only carry out assisted
suicide, but to smoke marijuana and carry cocaine.
Contact: Peter J. Smith
Date: May 29, 2009
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