The Kevorkian Papers

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Kevorkian's controversial views earned him minor media attention which ultimately resulted in his ejection from the University of Michigan Medical Center. He continued his internship at Pontiac General Hospital instead, where he began another set of controversial experiments. After hearing about a Russian medical team who was transfusing blood from corpses into living patients, Kevorkian enlisted the help of medical technologist Neal Nicol to simulate these same experiments. The results were highly sucessful, and Kevorkian believed the procedure could help save lives on the battlefield—if blood from a bank was unavailable, doctors might use Kevorkian's research to transfuse the blood of corpse into an injured soldier. Kevorkian pitched his idea to the Pentagon, figuring it could be used in Vietnam, but the doctor was denied a federal grant to continue his research. Instead, the research fueled his reputation as an outsider, scared his colleagues and eventually infected Kevorkian with Hepatits C.

After qualifying as a specialist in 1960, Kevorkian bounced around the country from hospital to hospital, publishing more than 30 professional journal articles and booklets about his philosophy on death, before setting up his own clinic near Detroit, Michigan. The business ultimately failed, and Kevorkian headed to California to commute between two part-time pathology jobs in Long Beach. These jobs also ended quickly when Kevorkian quit in another dispute with a chief pathologist; Jack claimed that his career was doomed by physicians who feared his radical ideas. Kevorkian "retired" to devote his time to a film project about Handel's Messiah as well as research for his reinvigorated death-row campaign. By 1970, however, Kevorkian was still jobless and had also lost his fiancee; he broke off the relationship after finding his bride-to-be lacking in self-discipline. By 1982, Kevorkian was living alone, occasionally sleeping in his car, living off of canned food and social security.

In 1985, he returned to Michigan to write a comprehensive history of experiments on executed humans which was published in the obscure Journal of the National Medical Association after more prestigious journals rejected it. In 1986, Kevorkian discovered a way to expand his death row proposal when he learned that doctors in the Netherlands were helping people die by lethal injection. His new crusade for assisted suicide, or euthanasia, became an extension of his campaign for medical experiments on the dying. Kevorkian began writing new articles, this time about the benefits of euthanasia. He followed up his papers with the creation of a suicide machine he called the "Thanatron" (Greek for "Instrument of Death") which he assembled out of $45 worth of materials. The Thanatron consisted of three bottles that delivered successive doses of fluids: first a saline solution, followed by a painkiller and, finally, a fatal dose of the poison potassium chloride. Using Kevorkian's design, patients who were ill could even administer the lethal dose of poison themselves. After years of rejection from national medical journals and media outlets, Kevorkian would finally become the focus of national attention for his machine and his proposal to set up a franchise of "obitoriums," where doctors could help the terminally ill end their lives.


0 #3 Julie InYourFaceNewYorker 2012-03-23 19:30
Not to be nitpicky, but I believe Dr. Kevorkian's name wasn't officially Murad. It is what his mother called him at home. According to his biography, he was named Jacob but got the name Jack after a teacher misread his birth certificate.

+2 #2 Julie InYourFaceNewYorker 2011-07-13 01:42
What foreign languages did Dr. Kevorkian speak?
+2 #1 Julie InYourFaceNewYorker 2011-05-16 23:56
So many of Dr. Kevorkian's proposals make so much sense. What really sickens me is how the medical community dismissed them, I suppose, because it gave it a creepy feeling up its collective spine. You'd think that SCIENTISTS would be more rational.

As for Kevorkian's eye study, I would find it creepy to see a corpse's eyes, but I would still be able to handle it which is what these doctors should have done. Then the whole thing with the experimentation and organ donation on condemned criminals and euthanasia patients-- that makes so much sense. If I were terminally ill I would opt for experimentation and organ donation under a heavy anesthetic before my death. Even before I learned about this idea, I knew at least that if I die young I want my body donated to medical research-- that is how science advances and I love and respect science-- and care about humanity-- too much not to contribute something. I made this wish clear to my family.


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