Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

IT'S HARD TO THINK of a more macabre medico than Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired Michigan pathologist known affectionately as "Dr. Death."

Years ago he began his upsurge to fame by suggesting that before their execution, condemned prisoners be put to sleep and used for surgical experiments. Then, he said, harvest their organs while still warm.

"I want to use death to benefit humanity," he declared. "Now it's just a total waste."

Dr. Kevorkian's more recent mission: promoting his suicide machine. With a Hick of a switch, his terminally ill patients can painlessly take their lives. Since June 1990, more than twenty have done so Dr. Kevorkian makes a compelling argument: people who have no medical hope of survival should have the right to die in a peaceful, painless, dignified way.

Is suicide legal? People in the state of Oregon voted yes. But the state of Michigan argues that suicide is illegal and assistants such as Dr. Kevorkian are guilty of murder.

From the Vedas we learn that suicide only makes a bad situation worse. Every soul is destined by karma, the reactions to past misdeeds, to suffer a particular amount of pain in its present body. A suicidal attempt to prematurely end the suffering generates more painful karma in the next birth.

Why does suicide make more karma? Because no one has clear title to his or her body. Who owns yours? Your spouse? Your parents? Your government? The ravenous bacteria inside you awaiting your funeral? Or is it yours … at least for now?

In fact, you got your God-given body for a purpose to understand the God who gave it to you. It's not yours to kill. Kill it and you've earned yourself a new body even more prone to suffering and less prone to the ecstasy of God realization.

But what about the pain of terminal illness? Recently my brother-in-law succumbed to lung cancer. In his last months he was often too drugged on morphine to talk or think clearly. He died unconscious in a hospital.

Around that time, Srila Prabhupada's disciple Ratnaranjini Devi Dasi of Scotland gave up her cancer-ridden body. She refused pain-killers. "Just let me suffer my lot and get it over with." She left her body in Krsna consciousness, her Krsna Deity in hand.

In Bhagavad-gita (8.5), Krsna declares, "Whoever at the end of life quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains to My nature. Of this there is no doubt." Once you have attained Lord Krsna's abode at death, you've permanently solved your problems of disease and death in this world.

On the other hand, to forget Lord Krsna is suicide. The great devotee Narottama Dasa says, "My Lord, I have simply wasted my life. Having obtained the human body, I have neglected to worship Your Lordship, and therefore I have willingly drunk poison."

In other words, a godless life is its own suicide mission. Dying in ignorance, Dr. Kevorkian's patients will inevitably suffer a relapse another birth. Of course, repeat customers may be good for the suicide business. But Dr. Kevorkian's good intentions for suffering humanity are dead wrong. Death does benefit humanity. It's a wake-up call: "Be Krsna conscious while you can."