June 3, 2011

Jack ‘Dr Death’ Kevorkian Dies At 83

Jack Kevorkian, who helped over 100 people commit suicide, died early on Friday at the age of 83.

Mayer Morganroth, Kevorkian's attorney and friend, said he died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he had been hospitalized for about two weeks with kidney and heart problems.

The Detroit Free Press said Kevorkian died from a blood clot that was lodged in his heart.

Kevorkian, a pathologist, was focused on death and dying before he ignited a polarizing national debate over assisted suicide by crisscrossing Michigan in a rusty Volkswagen van hauling a machine to help sick and suffering people end their lives.

Some believed him to be a hero who allowed the terminally ill to die with dignity, while his harshest critics saw him as a cold-blooded killer who preyed on those suffering from chronic pain and depression.

"Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a rare human being," Geoffrey Fieger, his longtime attorney, told reporters on Friday. "It's a rare human being who can single-handedly take on an entire society by the scruff of its neck and force it to focus on the suffering of other human beings."

Kevorkian launched an assisted-suicide campaign in 1990, which allowed an Alzheimer's patient to kill herself using a machine he devised that allowed her to trigger a lethal drug injection.

He kept the campaign going through the 1990s, using various methods like carbon monoxide gas.  Kevorkian would drop bodies off at hospitals late at night or leave them in motel rooms where the assisted suicides took place.

He beat Michigan prosecutors four times before his conviction for second-degree murder in 1999.

He was imprisoned for eight years and released in 2007 on the condition that he would not assist in any more suicides.

He appealed to leave prison early due to poor health, but said he did not consider himself a candidate for assisted suicide.

Doctor-assisted suicide essentially has become law in Oregon in 1997 and in Washington state in 2009.  The practice of doctors writing prescriptions to help terminally ill patients kill themselves was upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kevorkian's colleagues first dubbed him as "Dr. Death" during his medical residency in the 1950s when he asked to work the night shift at Detroit Receiving Hospital so he could be on duty when more people died.

Kevorkian campaigned for performing medical experiments and harvesting the organs of death row inmates after the U.S. Supreme Court permitted states to reinstate the death penalty in 1976.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia