June 3, 2011

USA: "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian dies

DETROIT, Michigan / Reuters / News / June 3, 2011

Dr. Jack Kevorkian poses at the 62nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards
in Los Angeles, California August 29, 2010.  Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

By Mike Miller

Jack Kevorkian, the assisted suicide advocate known as "Dr. Death" for helping more than 100 people end their lives, died early on Friday at age 83, his lawyer said.

The American pathologist had been hospitalized in Royal Oak, Michigan, for two weeks with kidney and heart problems, said Mayer Morganroth, Kevorkian's attorney and friend.

Kevorkian was focused on death and dying long before he became an aggressive advocate of assisted suicide, crossing Michigan in the rusty Volkswagen van that carried a drug-delivery device he had built to help sick people end their lives.

He launched his assisted-suicide campaign in 1990, allowing an Alzheimer's patient to kill herself using the "suicide machine." Kevorkian beat Michigan prosecutors four times before a jury convicted him in 1999 of second-degree murder.

He was convicted after a CBS News program aired showing a video of Kevorkian administering lethal drugs to a 52-year-old man suffering from debilitating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

By that time, Kevorkian said he had helped 130 people kill themselves. Most were middle-aged women.

Kevorkian served eight years in prison and was paroled in 2007. As a condition of his parole, he vowed not to assist in any suicides.

The Armenian-born Kevorkian re-entered public life after he left prison, giving occasional lectures and running for Congress unsuccessfully in 2008.

An HBO documentary on his life "Kevorkian" and a movie "You Don't Know Jack" starring Al Pacino brought him back into the news last year.

In a June 2010 interview with Reuters Television, the right-to-die activist said he was afraid of death as much as anyone else and said the world had a hypocritical attitude toward voluntary euthanasia, or assisted suicide.

"Now we've avoided death because we don't like death. Religion says that's a big enemy, leave it alone. But we went beyond birth, into conception. Now we're dabbling in that," he said.

"If we can aid people into coming into the world, why can't we aid them in exiting the world?"

(Reporting by Mike Miller; Editing by Vicki Allen and Doina Chiacu)

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