The Kevorkian Papers

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Biography - Assisted Suicide Begins

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But Jack Kevorkian would become infamous in 1990, when he assisted in the suicide of Janet Adkins, a 45-year-old Alzheimer's patient from Michigan. Adkins was a member of the Hemlock Society—an organization that advocates voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients—before she became ill. After she was diagnosed with Alzheimers, Adkins began searching for someone to end her life before the degenerative disease took full effect. She had heard through the media about Kevorkian's invention of a "suicide machine", and contacted Kevorkian about using the invention on her. Kevorkian agreed to assist her in a public park, inside his Volkswagen van. Kevorkian attached the IV, and Adkins administered her own painkiller and then the poison. Within five minutes, Adkins died of heart failure. When the news hit media outlets, Kevorkian became a national celebrity—and criminal. The State of Michigan immediately charged Kevorkian with Adkins' murder. The case was later dismissed, however, due to Michigan's indecisive stance on assisted suicide.

In early 1991, a Michigan judge issued an injunction barring Kevorkian's use of the suicide machine. That same year, Michigan suspended Jack Kevorkian's medical license, but this didn't stop the doctor from continuing to assist with suicides. Unable to gather the medications needed to use the Thanatron, Kevorkian assembled a new machine, called the Mercitron, which delivered carbon monoxide through a gas mask. The next year, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill outlawing assisted suicide, designed specifically to stop Kevorkian's assisted suicide campaign. As a result, Kevorkian was jailed twice that year. He was bailed out by lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who helped Kevorkian escape conviction by successfully arguing that a person may not be found guilty of criminally assisting a suicide if they administered medication with the "intent to relieve pain and suffering," even it if did increase the risk of death. Kevorkian was prosecuted a total of four times in Michigan for assisted suicides—he was acquitted in three of the cases, and a mistrial was declared in the fourth. Kevorkian was disappointed, telling reporters that he wanted to be imprisoned in order to shed light on the hypocrisy and corruption of society.

In 1998, the Michigan legislature enacted a law making assisted suicide a felony punishable by a maximum five year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine. They also closed the loophole that allowed for Kevorkian's previous acquittals. Yet Kevorkian continued to assist patients. Meanwhile, the courts continued to pursue Kevorkian on criminal charges.

Not one to stand down from a challenge, Kevorkian pursued his crusade with even greater passion in 1998. That year, he allowed the CBS television news program 60 Minutes to air a tape he'd made of the lethal injection of Thomas Youk. Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, and had requested Kevorkian's help. On the recording, Kevorkian helped administer the drugs for his patient. Following the broadcast footage, Kevorkian spoke to 60 Minutes reporters, and dared the courts to pursue him legally. Prosecutors took notice, this time bringing a second-degree murder charge against Kevorkian. Kevorkian also decided to serve as his own legal counsel.



Comments  

 
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.

Julie
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+2 #2 Julie InYourFaceNewYorker 2011-07-13 01:42
What foreign languages did Dr. Kevorkian speak?
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+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.

Julie
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