Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist who helped generate a national right-to-die debate with a homemade suicide machine that helped end the lives of dozens of ailing people, died Friday at a Detroit-area hospital after a brief illness. He was 83.
Nicknamed "Dr. Death" and "Jack the Dripper," Kevorkian was thrust into public consciousness in 1990 when he used his homemade "suicide machine" in his rusted Volkswagen van to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer's patient who sought his help in dying.
For nearly a decade, Kevorkian escaped authorities' efforts to stop the assisted deaths. His first four trials resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. Here in a wheelchair, on the 11th day of a 1993 hunger strike, Kevorkian attends a preliminary hearing to face a charge that he violated Michigan's ban on assisted suicide.
Michigan at the time had no law against assisted suicide; the Legislature wrote one in response to Kevorkian. He also was stripped of his medical license. Pictured here in 1993, Kevorkian (center) sits in a Detroit courtroom, charged with assisted suicide.
Kevorkian's agenda received national attention, including a special on 20/20 with Barbara Walters in 1993. Supporters credit Kevorkian with bringing attention to the neglected suffering of many patients.
Kevorkian was finally convicted – on a charge of second-degree murder — in Oakland County, Mich., Circuit Court in 1999, after assisting in the death of Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease. Youk's death was videotaped and aired on the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.
Throughout his life, Kevorkian dabbled in art. In 1997, he spoke to the media at the opening of his show at Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak, Mich. Kevorkian used some of his own blood to paint the frame red.
Kevorkian's life story became the subject of the 2010 HBO movie You Don't Know Jack which earned actor Al Pacino awards for his portrayal of Kevorkian. The two were pictured together at the movie's 2010 premiere in New York City.
Kevorkian with his book Prescription: Medicide in 1991. Critics and supporters generally agree that his advocacy for the right of the terminally ill to choose how they die brought changes to hospice care in the United States.