We were invited to the opening of the Dr. Kevorkian art exhibit at Gallerie Sparta in West Hollywood. It was a somber event with 11 of Dr. Kevorkian's paintings on display as well as the "Thanatron," the assisted suicide machine he invented and used to help end the lives of 130 people.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian died in 2011 at the age of 83 from a blood clot, and he did not end up needing the device he had invented to help others, who were terminally ill and suffering. He wanted the nation to change its collective mind, and laws, about euthanasia and physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill and suffering. He felt it was humane, and so he forced the issue when he videotaped himself actually administering the lethal injections to a man dying of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1998. He was tried and sentenced to prison where he served eight years for second-degree murder. He was released in 2007 after promising not to help anyone else die or break any laws. In one of his most famous "60 Minutes" interviews he said, "We have lost all common sense in this country due to religious fanaticism and dogma." Largely because of Dr. Kevorkian, there are now three states in the U.S. that have legalized physician assisted suicide.
He was a pathologist, a composer and a painter. Painting mostly from l994 to l996, he had a style all his own. At the gallery are portraits of his parents, some pop-art related to music and politics, and the most intriguing paintings are of people in various stages of death, dying or diseased.
"Coma," photo courtesy Gallerie Sparta.
"Paralysis," photo courtesy Gallerie Sparta.
"Brotherhood," photo courtesy Gallerie Sparta.
Here is the Thanatron.
Photo: George Keller
It is being auctioned off with the starting bid of $25,000. It worked via an intravenous drip. Dr. Kevorkian would insert the needle and start the first two fluids. The first tube held a saline solution, the second a pain killer and these would go into the patient together. Then the patient themselves would press the button to administer the potassium that would stop the heart. It looked like it had been well used, and appeared to be kind of simple and crude in a way. It comes with the case that Dr. Kevorkian built himself.
All the paintings and the Thanatron will be on display at Gallerie Sparta through April 30th. Anything that does not sell with be donated to the Smithsonian.
Follow Irene Rubaum-Keller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/irenekeller