Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian has died
Jack Kevorkian, one of the most controversial proponents of assisted suicide, died yesterday at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Kevorkian, a graduate of The University of Michigan Medical School (1952) and then a resident at The University of Michigan Medical Center, began his fourteen-year career in the public eye in 1997 when he assisted an Oregon schoolteacher suffering from Alzheimer's to end her life in the back of his rusted VW van in a Michigan campground. That distasteful image ignited outrage even as it triggered a national conversation about death with dignity and the right of those who suffer from terminal illnesses to choose to end their life.
Six years before his first assisted suicide, Kevorkian wrote Prescription: Medicide: The goodness of planned death (1991). He also was the subject of a documentary, Right to exit: Kevorkian (2009).
Kevorkian continued assisting in more than 130 additional deaths, was tried several times for second degree murder, and finally was convicted of first degree murder in 1999 in a trial that lasted less than two days. Not only did he videotape himself administering a lethal injection to a patient suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), and then airing it on a 60 Minutes broadcast, but he also defended himself, against the advice of his longtime attorney, the equally controversial Geoffrey Feiger.
Kevorkian served eight years in prison before he was released in 2007 after promising never to assist in another suicide.
There is agreement on both sides of this difficult topic, that despite his showmanship and addiction to the spotlight, Kevorkian was instrumental in jump-starting the hospice movement in this country and also in causing physicians to more actively pursue palliative measures for their terminally ill patients who were suffering terrible pain.
Kevorkian, 83, died of complications from a blood clot.