News Articles

Kevorkian charged with murder; criticism of CBS continues

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Michigan prosecutor charged Jack Kevorkian with first-degree murder as criticism of the CBS television network mounted after its showing of a video tape of the assisted-suicide promoter injecting a terminally ill man with lethal drugs.
The Nov. 22 telecast by CBS’ “60 Minutes” of the fatal injection by Kevorkian and the death of Thomas Youk, 52, of Waterford, Mich., prompted an investigation that led to a Nov. 25 indictment in Oakland County (Mich). The CBS news program showed portions of a video made by Kevorkian, who reportedly has helped more than 120 people end their lives but has yet to be found guilty in four trials. Youk, who had Lou Gehrig’s disease, died in September.
On the show, Kevorkian said he killed Youk in a case of euthanasia, not assisted suicide. It apparently was the first time Kevorkian had administered the fatal dose rather than use his “suicide machine.” Kevorkian’s device has enabled those who have requested his assistance to administer the lethal drugs themselves.
After viewing the unedited video tapes Kevorkian provided 60 Minutes, Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney David Gorcyca called it “an obvious violation of the law that I will not turn my back to,” according to The Washington Post.
“Notwithstanding Mr. Youk’s consent, consent is not a viable defense to the taking of another’s life, even under the most controlled environment,” Gorcyca said at a Nov. 25 news conference announcing the indictment, The Post reported. “The time has come for Kevorkian’s violation of the laws and the involvement in the complicated moral, legal and ethical issue to be resolved in a court of law, by a jury of peers and not in the headlines of the media or editorial pages.”
Kevorkian was charged not only with murder but with illegally assisting in a suicide and with delivering controlled substances, according to The Post. He said on 60 Minutes he hoped the telecast of the video would bring about a showdown over a new Michigan law banning assisted suicide that went into effect Sept. 1, The Post reported.
CBS and 60 Minutes, meanwhile, received some harsh rebukes for what critics charged was using death for ratings and promoting assisted suicide and euthanasia. Criticism came not only from religious, pro-life and disability movement leaders but media critics and editorial writers as well.
U.S. News & World Report Editor Stephen Smith told The Post, “I just never thought I’d see a responsible news program like ’60 Minutes’ running a videotape of a man dying. … I don’t think CBS can plausibly claim that the debate over euthanasia requires a snuff film to get going. That’s just bogus. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.”
The Boston Globe said in an editorial the show was a “disgrace” and an “act of barbarism,” according to The Post.
Other newspapers and media analysts defended the program, as did 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, who interviewed Kevorkian on the show.
Wallace called criticisms “mindless,” telling The Post, “Turn it off if you don’t like it. … This is what death, in this particular case, looked like, not some horror.”
Wallace, 80, told The Post he would choose euthanasia if he were terminally ill.
Brent Bozell, chairman of the Media Research Center, charged CBS News with hypocrisy in telecasting Youk’s death. On Nov. 24, Bozell announced MRC had found a 1992 report in which CBS News blocked out photos of aborted children. The report was on advertising by pro-life congressional candidate Michael Bailey in Indiana in which aborted babies were shown.
“CBS News doesn’t exist anymore,” Bozell said in a written statement. “It’s either sensationalist advocacy or just plain sensationalism. Now, with ’60 Minutes’ airing of a murder on prime-time television, CBS’ rank hypocrisy has dragged it beneath tasteless to worthless.”
The telecast, however, gave 60 Minutes its largest audience of the season, according to The Post. The show was telecast during the November ratings “sweeps” period.
Some CBS affiliates did not show the Nov. 22 program and were praised by critics of the segment for their decision. The Belo Corp., a Dallas-based company which has a policy against showing the taking of a life or the moment of death, refused to air the show on its affiliates. The company owns stations in Houston; San Antonio; St. Louis; New Orleans; Tulsa, Okla., and Spokane, Wash.
In 1994, ABC’s “Prime Time Live” telecast part of a Dutch documentary in which a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease was killed by a physician’s injection. ABC did not show the moment when the man died, according to The Post.