This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," September 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Well, Dr. Jack Kevorkian says it is time for the government to stop this kind of fear. He is no stranger to life-and-death situations, as you know. The doctor spent eight years in prison for his role in assisted suicide. By some accounts, he played a role in up to 130 of them.
Dr. Kevorkian joins me now for this exclusive chat.
Doctor, good to have you.
DR. JACK KEVORKIAN, CONVICTED FOR ASSISTING SUICIDES: Thank you.
CAVUTO: What do you think of what they are considering in Massachusetts?
KEVORKIAN: Well, I just heard about it about an hour ago when — it does not surprise me, but it does sadden me that the argument hasn't backed away to the fundamental point. That it's a — it's a — it's a — maxim this country was founded on. That you have a natural right — a natural right, not a legislative right, a natural right — to refuse to participate in anything that assaults your body or your conscience. Einstein said it nicely: Conscience supersedes the law of the state.
CAVUTO: But what if the conscience, Doctor,of authorities is that they don't want a lot of people dying? And so recognizing that conscientious obligation of government, they say, they are going to quarantine sick people in their homes, rather than risk a lot more people getting sick.
KEVORKIAN: Well, the way to do it would be to say, put something in your window that, "In this home, we want to be quarantined." Then it's — they're — they're using their — using their own right to accept what the government offers.
But if you do not want it, then you do not put the thing in the window. And everybody who does get vaccinated, so they are not going to get the disease. Those who risked it are going to die or get ill, but I do not think that may happen because the death rate in this flue, this virus, is not like it was in the old days, and it is nothing like the Black Plague.
In other words, we've got a prevalent infection, but not much death yet.
KEVORKIAN: So, it's isn't very vir — vir — virulent, and the person is born with a choice. If he wants to risk disease and death, it's his choice. But he is not going to hurt anybody else who is vaccinated.
CAVUTO: You spent eight years — more than eight years in prison for helping terminally ill people die. The prosecution at the time said that you really murdered them. It has been a long time. Are you angry?
KEVORKIAN: No. I have no regrets. Prison was a nice — it was an experience for me.
CAVUTO: How so?
KEVORKIAN: Most of the inmates and most of the guards supported me.
CAVUTO: Supported your right to help people who, if they wanted to die, die?
KEVORKIAN: I do not tell people they want to die. I do what a physician should do. That is what he is for. You do what — Hippocrates said it very plainly. You do what is best for the patient, period, and the patient knows what is best for him in most cases.
CAVUTO: They called you a murderer. What did you think of that?
KEVORKIAN: Well, if I did it with malice or forethought and without the permission, then I would be a murderer, but they forgot the definition of murderer when they criticized me, because it's so negative an epithet, that they win by fear. They throw these things out for fear, the same thing they are doing with the swine flu.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Doctor,about whether you are out of the assisted suicide business. You had said when you were released from jail, and you were beginning after parole, "I'm out of that business." But are you? A lot of folks say that if someone came in, and they needed your help and wanted to die, that Jack Kevorkian would help them. Would you?
KEVORKIAN: I would help them if they deserved it. We don't do it on a whim, you know. In some cases, we had six or eight different consultations over a period of time, and we made sure the patient was rational. If we could get a psychiatrist to check the patient over — but many of them refused. Many physicians refused to cooperate, which forced me to improvise.
CAVUTO: Many are saying that one key aspect of this health care reform they are looking at, Dr. Kevorkian, is these so-called panels that would meet with the elderly and discuss life and end-of-life options. Sarah Palin has called them the death panels. What do you call them?
KEVORKIAN: Well, the death panel makes it sound so negative. See, again, it's all a fear tactic. There will be a panel, but a panel of physicians. Not religious people, not ethicists, physicians. Because a physician is the only one qualified to evaluate the medical condition of the patient, and the only one qualified to decide if the patient's wish is worthy of action.
CAVUTO: So, if an older person is going to this physician panel, and the physician panel has to decide the type of care that's out there and how many people want that type of care, and he is with an older person, that older person is going to go to the back of the line anyway, aren't they?
KEVORKIAN: I didn't get that whole thing. This thing slipped out of my ear.
CAVUTO: All right. Many argue that these physicians meeting with older people will all but tell them, look. You are old. You'll have to stand at the back of the line for health care because you are old. And that is a death panel. What do you say?
KEVORKIAN: They have no right to say that. That depends if a patient — patient is willing to wait, he has to wait. What can he do? But you do not say, you are old so you ought to end it for that reason. He has got to have a legitimate medical reason, not just being old.
CAVUTO: So, calm people of their fears, Doctor,who say, well, this scares me. I am going before this panel of doctors, as Dr. Kevorkian would say, or whatever. And they are going to hear my thoughts on my end-of-life wishes. And they are going to decide whether they are granted, essentially. And that scares folks. What do you tell them?
KEVORKIAN: Well, first of all, a panel of doctors is not doctors who oppose anything. They're open to ration — to rationality.
If a — if a patient consults with a doctor who is opposed to what he wants, then he's at the wrong place. Your — your doctor has got to have a completely open mind because the patient it what counts, not the doctor's feelings. That's why Catholic doctors don't consult with some people.
CAVUTO: Now you — you are — you mentioned Catholic doctors, Doctor,but you — you — you think religion and God and all this plays too much of a role in these decisions.
Are you an atheist?
What are you, exactly?
KEVORKIAN: Call me anything you want. Call Clarence Darrow an atheist. Call Johannes Brahms an atheist. Call me anything you want. All I know is I do not believe in mythology. I do not accept mythology as the basis for my actions or basis for law. And we are based on mythology.
CAVUTO: So when Jack Kevorkian dies, you're not going anywhere?
it's done, you're dead, right?
KEVORKIAN: Yes, you're going into the ground and you're going to stink for a while and then you're going to go into the ground.
CAVUTO: So this obsession we have about death and fear we have about death, what do you think of that?