Thursday, January 11, 2007

Can ‘Dr. Death’, a.k.a. Jack Kevorkian, Keep His Resolution Not to Assist in Deaths?

In five months, the infamous ‘Dr. Death’ will be released from prison and will be on probation for two years, where Jack Kevorkian will be closely monitored and expected to fulfill his promise to the court to not participate in any way in any assisted suicide. Kevorkian has claimed responsibility in assisting at least 130 deaths in the United States.

For eight years, the 78-year-old retired pathologist has been imprisoned for his crimes in the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan. According to prison authorities, his defiance and flagrantly vocal disregard for the law have changed and he no longer spouts contempt for society and the legal system. Kevorkian now says that he should have worked to change the system legally.

In April 1999, just prior to being convicted, Kevorkian told Jack Lessenberry, ombudsman for The Blade, “Now I’ve got them where I want them.” His revolutionary statements to the public and media, and his obvious disdain for the laws have made his name synonymous with assisted suicide. At one time, he was one of the most famous US personalities.

Dr. Death’s reign began in June 1990 with the assisted suicide of Janet Adkins, 54, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. She died after using an intravenous drug machine. Kevorkian was charged in December with first-degree murder, but the charges were later dismissed since there were no assisted suicide laws in Michigan.

In October 1991, Marjorie Wantz, 58, who suffered from chronic pelvic pain, died of lethal injection. Her death was followed by Sherry Miller, 44, a multiple sclerosis patient who died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The following month, Kevorkian’s medical license was suspended. In February 1992, he was charged with the murders of Wantz and Miller. In 1996, he was acquitted of these murders.

Over a nine-year span, Kevorkian assisted in the deaths of people suffering from various diseases and painful conditions, including terminal cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, heart disease, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, emphysema, intestinal disease, arthritis and other forms of cancer. Two of the youngest people recorded were Nicholas Loving, 27, who suffered from ALS and died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and Roosevelt Dawson, 21, who was paralyzed from the neck down and died from lethal injection. Kevorkian’s suicide methods included intravenous drugs, lethal injections and most commonly, the inhalation of carbon monoxide.

Perhaps the most prominent case is that of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease, who sought out Kevorkian in 1998 and agreed to have his death videotaped. Kevorkian then gave the tape to Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes and it aired on November 22, 1998. Days later, Kevorkian was charged with first-degree murder and the delivery of a controlled substance. During the trial in 1999, ‘Dr. Death’ committed legal suicide by firing his attorney and representing himself. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sent to prison [People v. Kevorkian, 248 Mich. App. 373, 639 N.W. 2d 291 (2001).

Kevorkian’s attorney, Mayer Morganroth, claims that his client suffers from numerous health issues, including hepatitis C, high blood pressure and diabetes, and he recently fell and cracked two ribs. Morganroth also insists that his client probably has less than a year to live. He says that Kevorkian plans to live with friends in Detroit, Michigan, while living off a small pension and Social Security.

Kevorkian has stated that, after his parole, he intends to write and do some public speaking. We can only guess what the topic will be. But the question on everyone’s mind―will ‘Dr. Death’ strike again? Only time will tell.

Kevorkian is expected to be released on June 1st, 2007.

(Original article went out as a press release on January 2, 2007)

~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and editor. She is also the author of three mystery novels set in Canada, including the highly anticipated ‘assisted suicide novel’ Whale Song, which will release in April 2007 by provocative publisher Kunati Books.

Please visit Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s official website:


L. R. Wadsworth said...

Cheryl: I have to disagree with you on this one. I do feel that it is far better to end life with dignity before you find youself as a breathing skeleton hooked up to machines. It is far better that, if a patient is of sound mind and that if all avenues have been explored, for an individual to be able to make the decision to end their life painlessly and with dignity. Many of us make that choice now with Living Wills so that difficult decisions are removed from our loved ones. These decisions can also include organ donations to improve the quality of life of others. Like in some other countries, it is only a matter of time, before true assisted suicide will be adopted here.

Cheryl Tardif said...

Hi there:

I'm sorry but you have misread my press release, as I did not take a stand either way on this highly controversial issue. I was simply reporting the facts of Kevorkian's cases and his parole.

However, I admit to be leaning more toward assisted suicide, given proper supervision and following strict laws, though not as strict as they are now. I am still on the fence to some degree, although sliding more in favor of assisted suicide than not.

Thanks for your comments. :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif