News & Reviews

Issue: "Kosovo: What's next?," April 10, 1999

For America, the jury is still out
Dr. Death gets his verdict
Dr. Jack Kevorkian got what he wanted, and now he doesn't want it anymore. Last November, when charged with first degree murder, he said, "We need a felony conviction now. That's the only way we're going to get anywhere with this." On March 26 a Detroit jury convicted Dr. Kevorkian of second-degree murder, and he may now spend the rest of his life in prison. Dr. Kevorkian-or "Dr. Death" as he is known-was on trial for administering a fatal dose of potassium chloride last Sept. 17 to Thomas Youk, a patient with Lou Gehrig's disease. Dr. Kevorkian taped his act, and it was nationally broadcast on the popular CBS program 60 Minutes a few weeks after the killing. It was this prime-time "snuff film" which led to his trial and conviction. At the end of the macabre trial, in which Dr. Kevorkian exercised his right to serve as his own attorney, the jurors debated for 12 hours before reaching their verdict. They viewed the videotape of Mr. Youk's death several times, watching Dr. Kevorkian kill a patient by poison-and they could not ignore the graphic evidence. The murder conviction is the most serious setback yet in Dr. Kevorkian's crusade to legalize euthanasia. Though previously charged with assisted suicide, Dr. Kevorkian had never been successfully prosecuted, even though he admits to assisting at least 130 persons to die since beginning his crusade in 1990. Michigan prosecutors dropped the assisted suicide charge against Dr. Kevorkian in the Youk case, and went for broke with the charge of first-degree murder. This prevented Dr. Kevorkian from presenting a defense based upon Mr. Youk's physical condition or consent to die. Prosecutor John Skrzynski called Dr. Kevorkian "a medical hit man in the night with a bag of poison to do his job." Dr. Kevorkian tried to present himself as a human-rights activist in the line of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. He closed his case by asking the jury, "Honestly now, do you see what [the prosecutor] calls a killer?" Any good attorney knows better than to ask a question like that, and Dr. Kevorkian, age 70, now faces up to 32 years in prison. The tragedy is that this verdict came only after 130 deaths. America lacks the moral conviction to outlaw assisted suicide with legislation that will stand, and even if Dr. Kevorkian remains in jail for the rest of his life, others will quickly take up his mission. Just a month before Dr. Kevorkian's trial, the state of Oregon released its first annual report on assisted suicide and euthanasia. The report indicated that 15 Oregonians died in 1998 by assisted suicide-all made fully legal by Oregon's 1997 "Death with Dignity Act." The report cheerfully reveals that the 15 died without complications such as vomiting or seizures, and Governor John Kitzhaber's policy adviser for health care said that the governor "is gratified to see that the act is working, much as we expected it would." Another Oregon health official boasted that the state is "the only place in the world where this is legal." Though officially illegal in the Netherlands, an estimated 4,500 persons die there each year by euthanasia, and another 500 by assisted suicide. Unchecked by moral revulsion, the death toll in Oregon is certain to rise, and the "Dutch cure" is now sanctioned by state law. America is at a critical moment of decision on the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The movement to make these procedures fully legal and medically sanctioned is gaining momentum. In the end, Jack Kevorkian was convicted only because he chose to dare a jury to judge him guilty. Behind his high-stakes publicity stunt is a massive movement which sees human life only through the twisted lenses of a cost/benefit analysis. We are not winning this battle. "Tenderness is the first disguise of the murderer," wrote the late Walker Percy, man of letters and medical doctor. Pro-euthanasia forces are winning because they have successfully disguised cruelty as kindness. In presenting his closing argument to the Michigan jury, prosecutor Skrzynski warned, "There are 11 million souls buried in Europe that can tell you that when you make euthanasia a state policy, some catastrophic things can evolve from that." The catastrophe is not far on the horizon. For the American people, the jury is still out.
-by R. Albert Mohler Jr. textbook authors refuse to tolerate biblical views
Darwinian education on trial
A group of 23 textbook authors says Darwin's legacy is in danger in America's schools unless districts demand textbooks that proclaim evolution as truth. This declaration, backed by the California-based National Center for Science Education, came at the convention of the National Science Teachers Association. These scientists claim teaching the theory of evolution is no different from teaching the theory of gravity. "It's academically and intellectually dishonest to teach biology any other way," said Eric Strauss, author of a popular introductory biology textbook and a biology professor at Boston College. The NCSE complained that parents urged Texas school districts last year to adopt textbooks that didn't "harp on" evolution. The NCSE also attacked disclaimer stickers on texts, like those approved by the Alabama Board of Education in 1995. The Alabama label explains that evolution is a theory and that statements about the origins of life should be considered in that light. The evolutionists are "vastly overreacting to what we're trying to accomplish," said Probe Ministries head Raymond G. Bohlin, who has a doctorate in molecular biology. He said evolution should be fairly represented and juxtaposed with other theories of life. The NCSE, however, says that no other theories are worth talking about in class. Virus scare grips computer world
Mean Melissa
The insidious Melissa virus has sent computer users on perhaps the biggest virus scare of the decade. Melissa infects Microsoft Office by tapping users' address books and sending infected files listing a series of pornographic Web sites. It spread like wildfire over the Net, paralyzing corporate e-mail systems and leaving many apologizing to their business contacts for the obscene message. Ziff-Davis commentator Jesse Berst joked that he hadn't seen anything "take over this fast since Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The original version of Melissa sent e-mail with the subject line "Important Message From 'UserName'" and a message body of "Here is that document you asked for ... don't show anyone else ;-)." The virus is spread by opening the attached Word document. Microsoft, whose products were trashed by the virus, sent out a red alert. The company urged users to use the "disable macros" command when warning messages pop up and to delete suspicious messages. Within days, Melissa was mutating and new strains were popping up around the world as virus writers quickly made new versions and passed them around the Net. washington reconsiders conscription
Uncle Sam wants you!
The Kosovo police action has brought back talk of something once considered unthinkable: the return of military conscription. The Vietnam disaster has politically silenced serious plans for 25 years, but some experts say a draft may be needed to help America fight post-Cold War battles. Washington knows bringing back the draft won't be easy, especially since many of today's leaders were trying to duck military service in the 1960s and 1970s. Army Secretary Louis Caldera told the National Press Club that new conscriptions must be done carefully, but a draft could reduce the $100 million a year the Army spends on recruiting advertising, teach that military service is everyone's obligation, and "act as a leveling influence," bringing together young people from differing backgrounds. Mr. Caldera also said conscription might not be practical, given lower manpower needs and the high cost of training recruits. He said a draft that was regarded as unfair "because too few are called, might harden feeling against the military and hurt rather than help raise the regard in which military service is held." The No-Comment Zone

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