Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a longtime advocate of assisted suicide, has died of kidney-related problems in a Detroit hospital after a short illness. He was 83.
Kevorkian is best known for his advocacy of assisted suicide. Between 1990 and 1999, Kevorkian was present at the deaths of more than 130 people. With each death, Kevorkian became more and more brazen as he attempted to change the law around assisted suicide by flouting it.
He created a “suicide machine” that, he said, allowed terminally ill people to end their lives in a humane and painless way. Kevorkian would inform the police of deaths he had assisted, waving a proverbial red flag in front of the face of the law, and he stood trial several times for murder without being convicted, allowing him to carry on.
Kevorkian was finally convicted of murder in the 1998 death of Thomas Youk. Youk’s suicide was videotaped by CBS’ 60 Minutes and broadcast nationally, giving the prosecution ample evidence to use against Kevorkian in court. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. Kevorkian was released early from this sentence on the basis of good behavior, and on a promise that he would not engage in any more assisted suicides.
Kevorkian’s stance on assisted suicide was hugely controversial, as was Kevorkian himself. Disabled rights advocates said that allowing assisted suicide sent the message that disabled people should simply end their lives rather than live with disabilities, and that Kevorkian preyed on the mentally ill and encouraged them to kill themselves rather than get assistance.
There are no plans for a memorial service.
Photo credit: Joeflintham on Flickr