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Dr. Jack Kevorkian is Dead

Dr. Jack Kevorkian is Dead

Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian ( /kɛˈvɔrkiːɛn/;[2] May 26, 1928[3] – June 3, 2011) was an Armenian-American pathologist, right-to-die activist, painter, composer, instrumentalist, and convicted murderer. He is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide; he claimed to have assisted at least 130 patients to that end. He famously said that "dying is not a crime."[4]

Beginning in 1999 Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on condition that he would not offer suicide advice to any other person.[5]

An oil painter and a jazz musician, Kevorkian marketed limited quantities of his visual and musical artwork to the public.

[edit] Life and careerKevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan to Armenian immigrants. His father Levon was born in the village of Passen, near the ancient Armenian city of Garin, and his mother Satenig was born in the village of Govdun, near Sepastia.[6] He moved from Turkey in 1912 and made his way to Pontiac, Michigan, where he found work at an automobile foundry. Satenig fled the Armenian death march, finding refuge with relatives in Paris, and eventually reuniting with her brother in Pontiac. Levon and Satenig met through the Armenian community in their city, where they married and began their family. The couple welcomed a daughter, Margaret, in 1926, followed by son Jacob—who later earned the nickname "Jack" from an American teacher who misread the birth certificate[1]—and, finally, third child Flora.[7] Kevorkian graduated from Pontiac Central High School with honors in 1945, at the age of 17. In 1952, he graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.[8][9][10] In the 1980s, Kevorkian wrote a series of articles for the German journal Medicine and Law that laid out his thinking on the ethics of euthanasia.

Kevorkian started advertising in Detroit newspapers in 1987 as a physician consultant for "death counseling." His first public assisted suicide was in 1990, of Janet Adkins, an elderly woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1989. He was charged with murder, but charges were dropped on December 13, 1990 because there were no Michigan laws outlawing suicide or the medical assistance of it so he was not in violation of a law.[11] However, in 1991 the State of Michigan revoked Kevorkian's medical license and made it clear that given his actions, he was no longer permitted to practice medicine or to work with patients.[12] Between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted in the deaths of 130 terminally ill people, according to his lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. In each of these cases, the individuals themselves allegedly took the final action which resulted in their own deaths. Kevorkian allegedly assisted only by attaching the individual to a euthanasia device that he had made. The individual then pushed a button which released the drugs or chemicals that would end his or her own life. Two deaths were assisted by means of a device which delivered the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an I.V.. Kevorkian called it a "Thanatron" (death machine).[13] Other people were assisted by a device which employed a gas mask fed by a canister of carbon monoxide which was called "Mercitron" (mercy machine).

[edit] Art careerKevorkian was a jazz musician and composer. The Kevorkian Suite: A Very Still Life was a 1997 limited release CD of 5,000 copies from the 'Lucid Subjazz' label. It features Kevorkian on the flute and organ playing his own works with "The Morpheus Quintet." It was reviewed in Entertainment Weekly online as "weird" but "good natured".[14] As of 1997, 1400 units had been sold.[14] Kevorkian wrote all the songs but one; the album was reviewed in jazzreview.com as "very much grooviness" except for one tune, with "stuff in between that's worthy of multiple spins."[15] Sludge metal band Acid Bath used one of his artworks as an album cover for their second album, Paegan Terrorism Tactics.

He was also an oil painter. His work tended toward the grotesque; he sometimes painted with his own blood, and had created pictures such as one "of a child eating the flesh off a decomposing corpse."[16] Of his known works, six were made available in the 1990s for print release. The Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak, Michigan is the exclusive distributor of Kevorkian's artwork. The original oil prints are not for release.[17]

[edit] Trials This section requires expansion.

Kevorkian was tried numerous times for assisting suicides, often in Oakland County, Michigan. Prior to the Thomas Youk case (see below), Kevorkian was gaining public support for his cause, as evidenced by the defeat of Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson by David Gorcyca in the Republican primary.[18] The result of the election was attributed by Thompson, in part, to the declining public support for the prosecution of Kevorkian and its associated legal expenses.[19]

On the November 22, 1998, broadcast of 60 Minutes, Kevorkian allowed the airing of a videotape he had made on September 17, 1998, which depicted the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, 52, who was in the final stages of ALS. After Youk provided his fully informed consent (a sometimes complex legal determination made in this case by editorial consensus) on September 17, 1998, Kevorkian himself administered Thomas Youk a lethal injection. This was highly significant, as all of his earlier clients had reportedly completed the process themselves. During the videotape, Kevorkian dared the authorities to try to convict him or stop him from carrying out mercy killings. This incited the prosecuting attorney to bring murder charges against Kevorkian, claiming he had single-handedly caused the death.

On March 26, 1999, Kevorkian was charged with second-degree murder and the delivery of a controlled substance (administering a lethal injection to Thomas Youk).[8] Kevorkian's license to practice medicine had been revoked eight years previously; he was not legally allowed to possess the controlled substance. As homicide law is relatively fixed and routine, this trial was markedly different from earlier ones that involved an area of law in flux (assisted suicide). Kevorkian discharged his attorneys and proceeded through the trial representing himself. The judge ordered a criminal defense attorney to remain available at trial as standby counsel for information and advice. Inexperienced in law and persisting in his efforts to represent himself, Kevorkian encountered great difficulty in presenting his evidence and arguments. In particular, he was not able to call any witnesses to the stand because the judge did not deem the testimony of any of his witnesses relevant.[20]

The Michigan jury found Kevorkian guilty of second-degree homicide. It was proven that he had directly killed a person because Youk was not physically able to kill himself. Youk, unable to assist in his suicide, agreed to let Kevorkian kill him using controlled substances. The judge sentenced Kevorkian to serve 10–25 years in prison and told him: "You were on bond to another judge when you committed this offense, you were not licensed to practice medicine when you committed this offense and you hadn't been licensed for eight years. And you had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did and dare the legal system to stop you. Well, sir, consider yourself stopped." Kevorkian was sent to prison in Coldwater, Michigan.[21]

In the course of the various proceedings, Kevorkian made statements under oath and to the press that he considered it his duty to assist persons in their death. He indicated under oath that because he thought laws to the contrary were archaic and unjust, he would persist in civil disobedience, even under threat of criminal punishment. Future intent to commit crimes is an element parole boards may consider in deciding whether to grant a convicted person relief. After his conviction (and subsequent losses on appeal) Kevorkian was denied parole repeatedly.[22]

In an MSNBC interview aired on September 29, 2005, Kevorkian said that if he were granted parole, he would not resume directly helping people die and would restrict himself to campaigning to have the law changed. On December 22, 2005, Kevorkian was denied parole by a board on the count of 7–2 recommending not to give parole.[23]

Reportedly terminally ill with Hepatitis C, which he contracted while doing research on blood transfusions in Vietnam,[24] Kevorkian was expected to die within a year in May 2006. After applying for a pardon, parole, or commutation by the parole board and Governor Jennifer Granholm, he was paroled for good behavior on June 1, 2007. He had spent eight years and two and a half months behind bars.[25][26]

Kevorkian was on parole for two years, under the conditions that he not help anyone else die, or provide care for anyone older than 62 or disabled.[27] Kevorkian said he would abstain from assisting any more terminal patients with death, and his role in the matter would strictly be to persuade states to change their laws on assisted suicide. He is also forbidden by the rules of his parole from commenting about assisted suicide.[28][29] On June 4, 2007, Kevorkian appeared on CNN's Larry King Live to discuss his time in prison and his future plans.[30][31] At the time of Kevorkian's release, Oregon was the only state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide; Montana and Washington state have since legalized it as well.

[edit] Activities after his release from prisonOn January 15, 2008, Kevorkian gave his largest public lecture since his release from prison, speaking to a crowd of 4,867 people at the University of Florida. The Gainesville Sun reported that Kevorkian expressed a desire for assisted suicide to be "a medical service" for willing patients. "My aim in helping the patient was not to cause death", the paper quoted him as saying. "My aim was to end suffering. It's got to be decriminalized."[32]

On February 5, 2009, Kevorkian lectured to students and faculty at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida. Over 2,500 people heard him discuss tyranny, the criminal justice system and politics. Poor sound and a long lecture caused many people to leave within 45 minutes.[33] For those who remained, he discussed euthanasia during a question and answer period.

On September 2, 2009, he appeared on Fox News Channel's Your World with Neil Cavuto in his first live national television interview to discuss health care reform. On September 20, 2009, he appeared at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania to speak to a sold-out audience. Sellers of tickets claimed that all tickets were sold out within 5 minutes of the office opening.[citation needed]

On April 15 and 16, 2010, Kevorkian appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°,[34] Anderson asked, "You are saying doctors play God all the time?" Kevorkian said: "Of course. Anytime you interfere with a natural process, you are playing God."[35] Some of the cast of the film You Don't Know Jack (a film based on Kevorkian's life) including director Barry Levinson, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman were interviewed alongside Kevorkian. Kevorkian was again interviewed by Neil Cavuto on Your World on April 19, 2010 regarding the movie as well as discussing Kevorkian's world view. You Don't Know Jack premiered April 24, 2010 on HBO.[36] The film premiered April 14 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Kevorkian walked the red carpet alongside Al Pacino who portrays him in the film.[37] Pacino was awarded an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal, and personally thanked Kevorkian, who was in the audience, upon receiving both of these awards.

Mr. Jack Kevorkian answering questions at UCLA with lawyer Mayer Morganroth (right) and former Foreign Minister of Armenia, Raffi Hovannisian (left)Kevorkian has also had two books published since his release from prison. glimmerIQs,[6] a memoir he wrote while in prison, was published in August 2009, and When the People Bubble POPs,[38] published in January 2010, in which Kevorkian wrote about his views on human overpopulation.

On January 15, 2011, Kevorkian spoke to a sold out crowd at UCLA's Royce Hall Auditorium, an event hosted by the university's Armenian Students' Association, as well as the Armenian American Medical Society of California.[39][40][41] The talk was followed by a question and answer session, moderated by Raffi Hovannisian, the first Foreign Minister of Armenia and the leader of the Heritage party in Armenia. Topics discussed were his Armenian upbringing in Pontiac, Michigan, the Ninth Amendment, the preservation of Armenian Culture in the diaspora, and end-of-life issues. Kevorkian also spoke of his time in prison, telling the audience the worst parts of his eight-year and two-month sentence were "the snoring" and "windows during winter". He instructed the Armenian Diaspora that the most important anchor they had was the Armenian language.[42]

[edit] 2008 Congressional RaceSee also: United States House of Representatives elections in Michigan, 2008
Wikinews has related news: Assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian to run for US Congress
On March 12, 2008, Kevorkian announced plans to run for United States Congress to represent Michigan's 9th congressional district against eight-term congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills), Central Michigan University Professor Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township), Adam Goodman (L-Royal Oak) and Douglas Campbell. (G-Ferndale). Kevorkian ran as an independent and received 8,987 votes (2.6% of the vote).[43]

[edit] CriticismAlthough Kevorkian claimed to be an advocate for the terminally ill, by the estimation of the investigative reporters at the Detroit Free Press, at least 60% of the people who committed suicide with Kevorkian's help were not terminally ill. Furthermore, the reporters found that:[44][45]

Kevorkian's counseling was often limited to phone calls and brief meetings that included family members and friends.
There was no psychiatric examination in at least 19 Kevorkian suicides, including several in which friends or family had responded that the patient was despondent over matters other than health.
In at least 17 assisted suicides in which people complained of chronic pain, Kevorkian did not refer the patients to a pain specialist.
Kevorkian's access to medical records varied widely; in some instances, he received only a brief summary of the attending physician's prognosis.
Autopsies of at least three Kevorkian suicides revealed no anatomical evidence of disease.
At least 19 patients died less than 24 hours after meeting Kevorkian for the first time.
However, the accuracy of these findings is disputed by Kevorkian and his supporters.

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