Physician-assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian dead at 83
The controversial assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, M.D., died June 3 in a Detroit area hospital. Although his official cause of death has not been confirmed, press reports suggest it was pulmonary thrombosis.
Known as “Dr. Death,” Kevorkian strongly advocated for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. He is believed to have helped in the death of more than 130 terminally ill patients between 1990 and 2000. After earning his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School, Kevorkian became a pathologist. In 1990, he used his own “suicide machine” to assist with the death of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's. His other clients had conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, brain tumors and other forms of cancer.
While he successfully beat four attempts at murder convictions in Michigan, his luck eventually ran out. Kevorkian assisted with the death of a 52-year-old ALS patient, which he recorded on tape and then sent to the CBS news program “60 Minutes” in 1998. He was convicted the following year of second-degree murder. He agreed in 2007 to not assist in any more suicides as a condition of his parole.
Although he was a controversial figure, advocates on both sides of the euthanasia debate acknowledge that Kevorkian succeeded at raising awareness of the rights of the terminally ill. His views about helping individuals with chronic and disabling pain were one factor in spurring the acceptance of hospice and end-of-life care. Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in Oregon and Washington.