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The politics of euthanasia and assisted suicide: A comparative case study of emerging criminal law and the criminal trials of Jack 'Dr. Death' Kevorkian.

Pappas, Demetra M (2010) The politics of euthanasia and assisted suicide: A comparative case study of emerging criminal law and the criminal trials of Jack 'Dr. Death' Kevorkian. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

During the 1990's, medical euthanasia and "physician assisted suicide" became controversial. The latter was variously criminalized, decriminalized and legalized. This dissertation analyses some of the factors leading to changes in de jure and de facto criminal law. With special reference to the 1990s criminal trials of Dr. Jack Kevorkian (a retired pathologist who became a self-styled "Dr. Death"), it considers the creation and implementation of criminal law regarding medically hastened death in Michigan. I examine the social roles of chief prosecutors, judges, juries, family members of the decedents, and the media. This method of analysis presents a unique opportunity to study key players and how they may have influenced (or been influenced by) the court processes during the emergence of an important issue in a specific jurisdiction. The longitudinal study focuses upon one defendant in one locale, but also examines different statutes and cases. Thus, it becomes possible to scrutinize alternative legal theories of the prosecutions of the cases, along with the development of law in the books and law in action. Anchoring this study is Kevorkian's 1999 trial culminating in a conviction for euthanasia murder and related drug delivery charges. A landmark was a tape-recording of the consensual euthanasia, which Kevorkian made for broadcast on national television, and whose use by the media, the prosecution, and by Kevorkian, proved highly revealing. In short, the thesis supplies a detailed empirical and analytic examination of critical legal, social and political issues in the public response to physician assisted suicide and medical euthanasia. One principal conclusion is that in those Kevorkian cases in which the politics of death and the emerging assisted suicide debate were factors, the result was acquittal by juries. In sharp contrast, when the trial was limited to the elements of the crime, and eliminated questions of patient suffering and the families, the prosecution obtained a conviction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Law, Health Sciences, Medical Ethics
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Law
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2759

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