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.
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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.
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Kevorkian (left), then 62, listens as his attorney talks with reporters, Feb. 6, 1991. Pictured on the table is the machine he used to inject lethal drugs into 130 people.
Protesters appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in July 1996, as Kevorkian addressed a luncheon there.
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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.
Displaying his flair for the dramatic, Kevorkian met the press wearing stocks he made himself before a court arraignment on assisted suicide charges in Pontiac, Mich., in 1995.
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.
After nine years in prison, Kevorkian, then 79, left the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich. He was released with a parole pledge that he would never perform another assisted suicide.
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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 launched an unsuccessful bid for a seat in Congress at a news conference in 2008.
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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.
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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.
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"Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who put assisted suicide on the world's medical ethics stage, died this morning between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., said his lawyer Mayer Morganroth." (Detroit Free Press)
"Michigan's most famous felon pathologist, dubbed Dr. Death in the heyday of his assisted-suicide crusade, was released from prison in 2007 after serving more than eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence for murder for a nationally televised fatal injection he gave in 1998 to a patient stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease.
"A jury convicted 'Dr. Death' of second-degree murder in the case, dramatically ending a string of acquittals that had imbued Kevorkian with strident self-righteousness and transformed him into a symbol of the right-to-death movement."
And, as the News says:
"His actions sparked the still-unsettled debate in the U.S. about whether it is ethical and moral for doctors to help end the suffering of hopelessly ill patients. He also forced discussions about the reliability of a terminal diagnosis and the prospects for future medical treatment."
Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. More On His Death:
The Free Press now adds that Morganroth, the lawyer, "said it appears Kevorkian suffered a pulmonary thrombosis when a blood clot from his leg broke free and lodged in his heart. With Kevorkian was his niece Ava Janus and Morganroth. 'It was peaceful, he didn't feel a thing,' Morganroth said."