Apparently HBO's advertising and marketing divisions don't know if Dr. Jack Kevorkian is a killer or not. Promos for the company's new movie, "You Don't Know Jack" feature actor Al Pacino as Kevorkian, along side the question, "Is this the face of a killer?" To HBO, the answer is no, he's not a killer, if the movie's synopsis and trailer are any indication.
"Provocative, obstinate and complex, Jack ultimately risks it all in his fervor to change the prevailing laws and challenge society's attitude towards the right to die," read the film's synopsis. The movie premieres April 24.
Throughout the trailer, viewers hear Pacino demanding, "When a law is deemed unmoral by you, you must disobey it. You must disobey it." Prior to that he stated, "What we're doing here today is groundbreaking" and "If a person's allowed to die, you do it quickly, painlessly, you don't let him whither away."
Viewers also hear actress Brenda Vaccaro, who plays Kevorkian's sister, defending him to protesters, "He's leading society to an age of enlightenment, you idiots!"
Director Barry Levinson told HBO "We're not trying to glorify the character, but we are trying to give a better picture of what he was about, how he thought, how he viewed the ethics of it all."
Kevorkian, known as "Dr. Death" for his involvement in the deaths of more than 100 terminally-ill people, including one shown on CBS's "60 Minutes," advocates for people's "right-to-die" and for wider acceptance of euthanasia. In 1999, a Michigan court convicted him of second-degree murder and sentenced him to a 10-25 year prison term, of which he served eight years.
Does America really need "to know the whole story" as other promos encourage, to gain "a better picture of what" Kevorkian is about? His take no prisoners advocacy approach doesn't leave many questions unanswered.
Kevorkian claimed that it is his "duty" as a doctor "to relieve the suffering of an agonized patient when he can't be cured" in an HBO interview. He also accused the American Medical Association and pharmaceutical companies of not caring about "human suffering," and depicted himself as a lone holdout against big business.
"The American Medical Association is the problem. It opposes euthanasia, comparing it to a criminal act. They called me a criminal, publicly. And they thought I should be harshly punished," he complained. "They're the problem. I was fighting big money - fighting a pharmaceutical industry that made billions on people who are dying. I was fighting a legal structure, government, legislatures, all with billions and billions of dollars to protect. No wonder they kept it illegal. See? They don't care about human suffering."
As for the sanctity of life, Kevorkian claimed that doctors don't "study sanctity in medical school."
"It has nothing to do with medicine," he told HBO. "When a sick, agonized patient comes to you as a doctor, it's your duty to help him or her. Duty. Forget about everything else, and if your religion interferes with that, you're in the wrong profession. You ought to be a priest."
Who's next in line for a sympathetic HBO biopic? Serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy? Surely Americans need "the whole story" about these people before making any moral judgments about them.