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CBS criticized for showing Kevorkian euthanasia video

WASHINGTON (BP)–CBS network’s telecast of a home video of a terminally ill man dying as a result of lethal drugs administered by Jack Kevorkian received criticism from religious, pro-life and disability groups.
The CBS News program “60 Minutes” telecast Nov. 22 a video provided by Kevorkian showing the infamous assisted-suicide practitioner injecting Thomas Youk of Waterford, Mich., with drugs. The video then shows Youk in the process of dying. Youk, 52, had Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died in September.
When Kevorkian was asked on 60 Minutes if he killed Youk, he said, “I did,” according to a Nov. 23 report in The New York Times. It was a case of euthanasia, not assisted assisted suicide, Kevorkian said, according to The Times. Normally, Kevorkian uses a “suicide machine” to enable the one who has requested to die to administer the lethal drugs.
Various pro-life advocates, as well as disability activists, decried the broadcast of the video both before and after its telecast.
CBS affiliates were placed in the position of “broadcasting what could brutally be described as a ‘snuff tape’ — a video that shows one person intentionally killing another,” wrote Ned McGrath, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit, in a Nov. 20 letter to CBS officials. “The decision as to whether or not to air this tape will be a watershed moment for legitimate news organizations; they will move from reporting on end-of-life issues to becoming electronic voyeurs of an actual physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.”
Diane Coleman, founder and president of Not Dead Yet, an organization leading the disabled’s fight against assisted suicide and euthanasia, said in a written statement, “Kevorkian is a serial killer of disabled people and should have been jailed long ago. If he were doing this to members of any other minority group, Kevorkian would be in jail by now and would never have gotten the bully pulpit of 60 Minutes.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Kevorkian’s progression beyond assisted suicide should not be surprising.
He is “taking the quality of life ethic to its logical conclusion, and that is euthanasia,” Land said on the Nov. 23 edition of “For Faith and Family,” the ERLC’s national radio program.
It starts with voluntary euthanasia, and “it always ends up with involuntary euthanasia, with human beings deciding that some other human beings do not have lives worthy of life and that they have the freedom to take those lives when they deem them as not having a sufficient quality of life to continue living,” Land said. “Kevorkian in some ways is a good figure to have on the other side, because he cuts through all the underbrush, he cuts through all the fancy language, he cuts through all the euphemisms and he calls this what it is.”
Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said in a statement Nov. 24: “Even the most jaded among us should be shocked by the terrible distance we’ve come down this road to ruin. This is a further illustration of the cheapening of human life, and should be clearly decried and firmly opposed by every thinking Christian. Mr. Kevorkian’s sick obsession with death, combined with CBS’s cynicism and self-promotion in airing this during its ‘sweeps week’ are a foul combination which could prove lethal to America’s future. To call homicide merciful is the height of absurdity. In the Netherlands over a thousand people a year are put to death without their consent by medical personnel. This is where Kevorkian’s agenda leads – the murder of the ill and elderly, or whoever the society thinks unworthy of life.”
60 Minutes’ overnight ratings in 44 markets were up 11 percent, during the November ratings “sweeps,” USA Today reported Nov. 24, even though affiliates in Houston, San Antonio, St. Louis, New Orleans, Tulsa, Okla., and Spokane, Wash., refused to air the segment. All are owned by the Dallas-based A.H. Below Corp., which an official said has a policy against showing the taking or a life or the moment of an individual’s death.
Kevorkian, who has assisted in the suicides of more than 100 people, said he hoped the telecast of the video would bring about a legal showdown in Michigan, The Times reported. A new state law banning assisted suicide went into effect Sept. 1. Under previous Michigan laws, Kevorkian was not found guilty in four trials.
Oakland County (Mich.) prosecutor David Gorcyca, in a Nov. 23 statement, said his office had issued a subpoena on 60 Minutes for the unedited video tapes provided by Kevorkian to the program. Gorcyca said the Nov. 23 subpoena was necessary because his office was “unable to obtain them by consent” from 60 Minutes.
“A complete and thorough investigation is being conducted by the Waterford Township Police Department,” Gorcyca said. “It would be irresponsible for any prosecutor to level charges against any individual based solely on media reports and edited versions of tapes aired on 60 Minutes.” Gorcyca said he had been “deluged with phone calls from the media and citizens across the state.”
Gorcyca said, however, “After viewing edited portions of the video last night, it appeared a homicide was committed in violation of the laws of the state of Michigan. … What is most disturbing about the segment aired last night was the total lack of compassion exhibited for Mr. Youk in the last few moments of his life. I saw a nonchalant, callous, businesslike approach involving the death of a person for the purpose of satisfying an attention-starved ego. It would have been more appropriate to submit the tapes to the local law enforcement agencies than to a national TV show if Kevorkian legitimately wanted to challenge the statute in a court of law.”
Gorcyca added, “If Kevorkian is serious about challenging the validity of the assisted suicide statute, or any other charges that may be issued, he will fully cooperate with the investigation.”
Kevorkian said on “60 Minutes” he would starve himself in prison if he were convicted, according to The Times.
In addition to the 60 Minutes euthanasia segment, in 1994 the then-ABC News program “Prime Time Live” telecast part of a Dutch documentary, “Death on Request,” in which a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease was killed by a doctor’s injection.

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