The slippery slope is getting much harder to deny. Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s prime-time publicity stunt demonstrates the speed with which the culture of death is overtaking our times.

Already credited with over 130 “assisted suicides,” Kevorkian has now been charged with first-degree murder after administering a fatal dose of potassium chloride to Thomas Youk, a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and then broadcasting his injection of Mr. Youk on a segment of “60 Minutes,” the CBS news program.

The macabre spectacle was, in essence, a prime-time “snuff film,” complete with Kevorkian’s anticlimactic declaration, “He’s flatlined.”

CBS claimed to be acting only on the highest motives and said the segment’s appearance during a ratings sweep was only coincidental. Whatever the motive, the broadcast will long be remembered for the falling of yet another moral landmark. CBS wanted us bedside for murder.

Opponents of “assisted suicide” have long argued that active euthanasia would quickly follow. Proponents of the “death with dignity” movement have dismissed those claims as nonsense intended to scare the public. Indeed, in 1991 Kevorkian claimed, “I could not even consider performing active euthanasia and thereby being charged with murder in a very hostile milieu.”

Kevorkian has been working toward this murder charge for some time. At a Nov. 4 court appearance he told reporters, “I’ve got things to do. We need a felony conviction now. That’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere with this.” He told Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” that if he is acquitted of this charge, prosecutors will just leave him alone, “because they know they’ll never convict me.”

Well, Kevorkian now has his wish. Charged with first-degree murder, he now awaits the trial he expects to open the culture to the free practice of active euthanasia — death at the hands of the doctor.

Yale Kamisar, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press that “most people don’t understand the difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia.” But Kevorkian has demonstrated there really is very little difference at all.

Indeed, L. J. Dragovic, the Oakland County (Mich.) Medical Examiner, listed Thomas Youk’s death as a homicide, and claimed it was not Kevorkian’s first. “It’s been happening all along,” Dragovic said. “The media just didn’t want to admit it. They kept calling it an assisted suicide.”

Kevorkian — “Dr. Death,” as he is proud to be known — is the clearest evidence of where our culture is headed. Death is to be embraced, and those whose lives are unworthy — by whatever standard of judgment — should die and get out of our way, off our medical bills, and off our consciences. Posing as an angel of mercy, Kevorkian is really a reflection of the darkest impulses of the human soul.

As a pathologist, Kevorkian called for medical experiments to be done on prisoners. Later, at Pontiac (Mich.) General Hospital, Kevorkian was seen transfusing blood from cadavers into living patients. He has praised Nazi doctors for their concentration camp experiments, championed suicide, and called for the creation of death centers known as “obitoria,” where those desiring death could be served with clinical efficiency.

In the 1960s, Kevorkian took art lessons and produced a series of gruesome paintings on death, featuring body parts, cannibalism, and genocide. The frame of one of his paintings was colored with blood from blood banks, mixed with his own. “People may wince at some of my paintings, but nobody has yet denied their forceful accuracy.”

Some proponents of the “death with dignity” may claim that Kevorkian is a renegade, but others are already praising him. Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, a group of euthanasia supporters, was quick to Kevorkian’s defense. “I commend Kevorkian absolutely for what he did. It was an act of great compassion and he needs to go public in this matter to jerk the argument forward.”

America was indeed jerked to attention by this videotaped homicide. Having denied life as God’s gift, Kevorkian and company are now ready to turn doctors into killers and put our culture on a constant death watch. The shift from “assisted suicide” to active euthanasia is inevitable — and almost imperceptible.

Kevorkian has the audacity to claim that any “enlightened” society would champion his cause. But by his standards of morality, only Nazi Germany was sufficiently enlightened to accept euthanasia as national policy. The dangerous slope turns out to be slippery after all — and we are much farther downhill than we would like to think.