Farewell Jack – Exit remembers Dr Kevorkian

“Dr Death is Dead!” ran the headlines as Jack Kevorkian, the most prominent of doctors ever to assist in suicides, reached his own last stand in Michigan’s William Beaumont Hospital, last June 3rd, and eight days after his 83rd birthday. Nurses played recordings of classical music by composer Johann Sebastian Bach for Kevorkian before he died.

With the publicity he brought, support for aid in dying rose to 75% in the USA by 1998.

He worked at the edges of the law and then openly against what he saw as unjust law. He gave the 60 Minutes programme a videotape of himself injecting Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old Lou Gehrig’s disease patient, with lethal drugs. The courts acted swiftly. Frustrated until now by technicalities, they succeeded in incarcerating Kevorkian, who had dismissed his lawyer. He served eight years of a 10-to-25-year sentence.

Dr Kevorkian was controversial even among right-to-die groups. But his enduring courage and compassion is seen by many as having paved the way for legislative reform.

1928 – Kevorkian is born in Pontiac, Michigan, the son of Armenian immigrants
1952 – Graduates from University of Michigan medical school with a specialty in pathology
1980 – Dr Jack Kevorkian writes a series of articles for the German journal Medicine and Law about his views on euthanasia
1987 – Kevorkian advertises in Detroit newspapers as a physician consultant offering “death counseling”
1990 – First public assisted suicide, with 54-year-old Janet Adkins, diagnosed with Alzheimers
1991 – Kevorkian’s medical licence is revoked
1994-1997 – Kevorkian is prosecuted 4 times – unsuccessfully
1994 – Oregon legalises assisted suicide
1997 – Releases an album of jazz music, playing flute and organ
1990-1998 – Assists with some 130 assisted suicides – the terms ‘Thanatron’ and ‘Mercitron’ coined to describe his assisted suicide machines
1998 – Videotape of Kevorkian administering a lethal injection goes live to the nation
1999 – Kevorkian successfully prosecuted for second-degree homicide, sentenced to prison
2007 – Kevorkian granted parole (in a series of national polls, a majority of Americans express their support for Kevorkian’s release)
2008 Runs for Congress
2008 – Washington State legalises assisted suicide
2009 – Kevorkian continues to tour and lecture, but without assisting in suicides (as per his parole conditions)
2009 – Montana Supreme Court upholds assisted suicide
2010 – The movie You Don’t Know Jack, starring Al Pacino as Kevorkian, is released on HBO to critical acclaim

Dr Death is Dead (Jamaica Observer)
Detailed chronology 1928-1999 (PBS)
The Kevorkian Verdict (tapes, transcripts, legal rulings, paintings, interviews with families)
Jack Kevorkian: How he made controversial history (BBC)
Red carpet interview – Jack Kevorkian (video)
Larry King Interview (video)
Law Blog Obituary (comment & video – Wall Street Journal)
Jack Kevorkian Obituary in The Economist

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5 Responses to Farewell Jack – Exit remembers Dr Kevorkian

  1. Marlene George says:

    Just finished watching the movie “You Don’t Know Jack” a week prior to his death. Believe it should be made available in every school. Jack was a hero to all of us.

  2. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    I was so sad to hear of Kevorkian’s passing. Farewell to a great mind! Check out my blog post about him: http://inyourfacenewyorker.blogspot.com/2011/06/dr-jack-kevorkian-dead-at-83-52628-6311.html


    • rachelfrische says:

      Your fight is not yet over Jack, your passion to give others a dignified and peaceful death still lives on. When I heard of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s passing, I felt as if the world had lost someone irreplaceable. So many people suffer each day with illnesses that will eventually deliver a disturbing, and inhumane death. We as humans have the right to live each day to the fullest, and still have the right to decide when we are done fighting for a life that is lived in suffering and pain. Dr. Kevorkian was a man criticized for having a deep passion for helping others exit this world with dignity. His work will be forever remembered, and his fight an inspiration to many. Rest in peace Jack. Thank you for your sacrifices so that others can sleep eternally in peace.

  3. Connie says:

    Too bad this country can’t see that he opened a door to what needs to happen in this country—safe, understanding that we will all die sometime & some may need to die before some other people believe they ought to. Your pain isn’t mine, mine isn’t yours, DON’T TELL ME THAT I’M NOT SUFFERING & “OUGHT” TO ” CONTINUE LIVING” EVEN IF I DON’T AGREE. MY BODY, MY RIGHT TO HANDLE IT AS I SEE FIT!!

    • Marlene George says:

      Bravo Connie

      So very well put. I envy our domestic friends whose sensible owners put them to rest at an appropriate time. I fear our planet is well behind the Jack Kevorkians of this world and we are left with nothing but high buildings and subway platforms to end our misery.

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