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In addition to inventing the death machine, helping terminally ill patients end their lives and serving eight years in prison for murder for having done so, Jack Kevorkian also painted. His paintings weren't like the all-too-ignorable kitsch painted by other historical figures like Hitler or Churchill, though, but something heavier odder; they had the surrealism ponderous, didactic symbolism of Eastern European poster art, and Kevorkian's obsessions—death and suffering—were everywhere:
During his prison years, Kevorkian published an anthology called glimmerIQs: A Florilegium, which compiled his serial limericks, philosophical manifestos and scientific treaties, reproductions of his paintings, and even handwriting samples and a natal chart, in case anyone wished to analyze him astrologically. In a chapter called “On Art,” Kevorkian rhymes:Kevorkian's artworks are on display at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.The subjects of art should be more
Than the aspects of life we adore;
Because dark sides abound,
Surreal paintings profound
May help change a few things we abhor.
Today, in theological news: the Catholic church is set to abolish the concept of limbo, as a place for the souls of unbaptised children and virtuous heathens, saying that it "has always been just a theological hypothesis".
Meanwhile, terminally ill patients in Israel will be allowed euthanasia, as long as it's carried out by machines and not humans, as that would be forbidden under Jewish law:
A special timer will be fitted to a patient's respirator which will sound an alarm 12 hours before turning it off.
Normally, carers would override the alarm and keep the respirator turned on but, if various stringent conditions are met, including the giving of consent by the patient or legal guardian, the alarm would not be overridden.
Similar timing devices, known as Sabbath clocks, are used in the homes of orthodox Jews so that light switches and electrical devices can be turned on during the Sabbath without offending religious strictures.As Jamie Zawinski said, "Judaism is so awesome -- it's the only religion composed entirely of loopholes!"
Canadian academic Russel Ogden has spent the past decade studying the assisted-suicide underground; for this, he has been kicked out by various universities (and is now doing a PhD remotely at a Norwegian university) and had his research notes (unsuccessfully) subpoenaed by the authorities:
But the biggest surprise was that many of these deaths were not the "good deaths" often described in proeuthanasia books, which tend to romanticize the process. Of the 34 euthanasia cases, Ogden found that half were botched and ultimately resulted in increased suffering.
These people were first- or second-timers, "not serial death providers," Ogden remarks. "They weren't sure what they were doing." He concluded that the lack of medical knowledge, as well as the unavailability of suitable drugs and ignorance of lethal doses, contributed to the additional suffering. "This study showed that without medical supervision and formal regulations, euthanasia is happening in horrific circumstances, similar to back-alley abortions," he declares.
NuTech's approach is to take medicine out of assisted death, with methods that are simple, painless, inexpensive and impossible to trace. Suffocation devices, such as the "debreather," a modified piece of scuba diving equipment, and the "exit bag," a plastic bag equipped with Velcro straps, are commonly used. Most popular, Ogden has found, is the plastic bag in conjunction with helium gas. "This is the quickest way to go; used properly, you're unconscious after the second breath and dead in about 10 minutes," he reveals. Such methods are more efficient and reliable than lethal drugs, but suffocation devices remain unappealing and undignified to people. Most still want something they can drink.
Life imitates Christopher Brookmyre novels: a nurse in Britain is on trial for being somewhat overzealous in tackling the bed-blocker problem, to the extent of attempting to hasten several patients' journey through death's door. In her efficiency drive, Barbara Salisbury is alleged to have given patients overdoses of diamorphine and withdrawn their oxygen supplies.
Salisbury, who was described by the prosecution as an experienced, capable and efficient nurse, is accused of attempting to murder Frances May Taylor, 88, in March 2002 in that she inappropriately administered diamorphine using the syringe pump, telling a colleague: "Why prolong the inevitable."
She is accused of attempting, 10 days later, to murder Frank Owen, 92, by instructing another member of nursing staff to lay Mr Owen on his back, allegedly adding: "With any luck his lungs will fill with fluid and he will die."
I wonder whether (assuming that the charges are true, of course) she was acting out of a personal cruel streak, or whether this is merely the most extreme manifestation of an institutional focus on patient turnover in the Thatcherite/Blairite health system in Britain (as was the plot of Brookmyre's Quite Ugly One Morning; though, granted, Brookmyre seems to write from a Scottish-socialist point of view).
New claims have emerged that the Queen Mother, who died in her sleep last year aged 101, was euthanased with a massive dose of heroin. It is claimed that she saw it as her duty to avoid dying at an inappropriate time (such as her daughter's jubilee), and thus elected to die a "mercy death" beforehand. Euthanasia is somewhat of a tradition in the British monarchy; the terminally ill George V. was euthanased with cocaine and morphine, so that his death would make the morning papers rather than the "less appropriate" evening ones. Nonetheless, royalists are outraged by the allegations. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in Britain, with terminally ill commoners forced to travel to places like Switzerland to die with dignity.
The Church of Euthanasia (which is like a cross between VHEMT, the Church of the SubGenius and something Jim Goad or someone could have come up with) has a new video out. Titled I Like To Watch, it splices footage of the WTC attack with pornography and sports coverage, over an electronic soundtrack, all to make a statement:
"I found it very beautiful." He continues: "I don't believe that I'm the only person in the world who derived sexual gratification from watching two of America's tallest buildings destroyed, but I do believe that I'm one of the few people with the courage to admit this in public. As an artist, I have an obligation to capture my feelings as accurately as possible. What I'm feeling may make me a monster, but I don't believe I'm alone in being a monster."
Australian euthanasia advocate Dr. Philip Nitschke (he of the Laptop of Death and the floating euthanasia clinic) has come under attack from religious-right group Right To Life for his eminently Darwinian idea of making suicide pills available to angst-ridden teenagers. (The Darwinian implications of allowing depression-prone people to easily kill themselves, though, bear some thinking about; imagine a planet of Shiny Happy People, the descendents of those genetically predisposed towards contented apathy.)
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