Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kevorkian and Congress

#377 Kevorkian And Congress

From the sunny slopes of Southfield, Michigan comes word that the most talked about American doctor since Benjamin Spock, Jack Kevorkian, has decided on yet another career change, congressional candidate. His previous careers, jailbird, assisted suicide maven and medical doctor didn't work out. But at a sprightly 79 years of age, Jack has decided to try for a spot that puts him somewhere between jailbird and medical doctor on the pay scale.

For those who were born this morning, Dr. Kevorkian achieved national prominence by helping terminally ill patients die. Usually, he helped them along from the back of a truck, equipped with all the tools of his trade. Nothing crude, nothing inhumane. The guy was hounded to near-suicide by the zealous prosecutors of Michigan, who finally figured out a way to clip him for second degree murder, and he served eight years of a 10-to-25 year term, getting out early after exhibiting "good behavior," which means he didn't shank anyone -- even someone who might have been terminally ill, while behind bars.

Here's Dr. Death's platform:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Sound familiar? It should. It's the ninth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Jack thinks that means it's really okay for him to help people kill themselves. And, he says, it makes mandatory seat belt laws unconstitutional. Funny thing about this amendment. No one really knows what it means. The "strict constructionists," the guys who are constitutional fundamentalists, the guys who believe the document means exclusively and exactly what it says and nothing more, think of it as kind of a verbal decoration. Funny, there's nothing else in the Constitution that they think that about. More liberal interpretations think it guarantees a right of privacy (something of a stretch, but okay) or the right to the presumption of innocence until proved guilty (also a stretch, but one we can all agree is a good thing.)

Of course, it might also mean that your right to an ice cream cone each Saturday or Sunday afternoon is guaranteed, though no one has tested that. James Madison, who was the driving force behind this rubberized one-liner, was the oldest of 12 kids. As such, he was probably really really good at devising systems to keep the other eleven in line and to become the transmitter and interpreter of his parents' wishes. He certainly did a pretty good job of transferring those skills to government in later life.

This strangely unique amendment, if phrased colloquially might read "Hey, you know, we can't think of EVERYTHING. And we hope that this thing will outlive us. And we figure times will change, but we have no idea how. So here's a little accordion you can use to squeeze or stretch whatever comes along. Good luck, bud."

So we come from James Madison to Jack Kevorkian. And you have to ask: what's wrong with this picture.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
Ninth amendment ©1791 The Republican National Flagwaving Committee, used by permission.
©WJR 2008

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