I thought I should put out a few words about "You Don't Know Jack," the new (well, April, "new") HBO-released movie about Dr. Kevorkian. It's got several actors we all know and love, playing out a debate that is near and dear to my heart.
It's a biopic about "Doctor Death," starring Al Pacino as Kevorkian, Susan Sarandon as real-life Janet Good, a trusted, integral participant in the aiding of right-to-die medical lawsuits back in the 1980s-90s, and John Goodman and Brenda Vaccaro as Kevorkian's right-hand men in the video-taping and documenting of assisting suicides to patients who had no will to live.
By many accounts, people have the right to be put out of their suffering, so long as they are cognizant and, actually, suffering; Kevorkian has always been played out in the media as a masked-murderer cloaked in doctor's garb.
At the end of the movie, and after endless chats with Mama G on the issue, jury's out? Which, for this type of film, is interesting and successful.
It's rare that I take movies actually seriously.
I mean, my favorites involve gunmen having showdowns, gangsters being awesome, spies stealing intel, vigilantes (the real favorite!) wreaking revenge on any and all who deserve it...or Tom Hanks falling in love with ladies I'd like to be (embarrassing, but true).
In short, I run the gamut, in terms of taste ... but I always just love tales, not the idea we should really think of the parables with regards to our own lives.
Sadly, in this life, I doubt I'll ever own a gun, be a gangster (sigh), be a spy (bigger sigh), go vigilante on someone (biggest sigh) and ... love's for the birds (no sigh needed, there).
But, this film really got to me. Got to me.
I grew up in a family of rational scientists, healthcare professionals, cynics, agnostics -- some crazier than others, sure -- but ... it was formative. No one liked that I graduated with a lib-arts degree, but everyone cheered when I started working at Popular Science, even as a grunt.
And, I grew up with a Mama G who has always told me: "Morgie, when I'm old and sick ... you just pull the plug. Pull it." -- she's seen too much in her 30-some-odd years of helping the sick and decrepit to imagine herself being kept alive for the sake of her kids not wanting to see her pass.
I always respond: "In yo' dreeeeeams! I couldn't do that ... you don't have enough dollars to leave me for me to let you go and not be able to gossip with you! Even if you're just laying there, I can still chat at you."
I kid, kind of. But the principle of believing that, in theory, you should relieve someone of their insufferable pain by telling them how to "go," painlessly -- which can be argued is part of a doctor's duties -- it's quite unthinkable to think about doing to a loved one unless you're in that situation.
The film really makes you think -- you watch how Kevorkian's ego, his pride, his honest-to-the-gods belief in progressing medical-history informs his logic; how he challenges current medical practices in the name of ushering in a transformative period of medical assistance against odds.
To me, it was pretty eye-opening.
Of course, when I discussed it, again, for two hours with Mama G, she said: "Well, now, sheesh, I'll have to watch it; don't go pulling the plug on me too soon!"
Never, and mission accomplished on the movie front!