By David Egilman
Jack Kevorkian was tried several times for second degree murder for assisting at suicide. He was finally convicted of second degree murder for one such “assist.” The state never asserted that the person who was killed was uninformed or had not participated in the decision to hire Kevorkian to assist in their own death. Patients knew of the risk they were taking when they contacted Dr. Kevorkian to help them kill themselves.
All over American and the world millions of people are “choosing to smoke.” Cigarettes kill half of all smokers. Most of these people begin this drug addiction when they are children, and by law they (unlike Kevorkian’s clients) cannot provide informed consent or understand the health effects of smoking. If Kevorkian had killed as many people as tobacco he would have been imprisoned long ago.
So what are the prosecutors waiting for?
I suggest that physicians refer every smoking related death and disease to the local prosecutor. This is nothing but murder on a grand scale. The companies and the corporate executives should not receive a mass murder discount. Where are the tough on crime legislators?
(I testify in tobacco litigation at the request of victims, and credit for this post goes to Mr. Furr, RJR’s lawyer, for questioning my efforts’ impact on the public health problems caused by the sale and promotion of tobacco products. In response to that thoughtful question, I suggest that we could start by putting his employers in jail.)
David S. Egilman, MD, MPH is Clinical Associate Professor at Brown
University’s Department of Community Health.