Jack Kevorkian

Operates under a simple philosophy:  People have the right to avoid a lingering, miserable death by ending their own lives with the help from a 

                                                                                                              physician who can ensure that they will die peacefully.

Kevorkian Timeline

Early On

    -His fascination with death began with a desire to extend life. He argued for anesthetizing death row inmates before execution, if they consented, for the purpose of organ harvesting and medical experiments.  This campaign was undercut by a swing at that time in the public opinion against capital punishment.  

    -He earned the nickname "Dr. Death" when he did research on the eyes of dying patients.  He would photograph the retinas of their eyes at the exact moment of death and found that the corneas become invisible at this moment.  He did this in hope of helping doctors distinguish between death and comas.   


   -Kevorkian served as a pathologist at hospitals in Michigan and California.  

    -Found it difficult to get support for his position on anesthetized organ donation for death row inmates.

    -His version of euthanasia was even rejected by the Hemlock Society for being to susceptible to abuse.

The Suicide Machine

    -In the late 80s Kevorkian built a machine that helped people to commit suicide by giving them a narcotic followed by a lethal dose of potassium chloride.

    -This machine enables disabled suicide candidates to kill themselves at the mere touch of a button.

Dr. Death's Advertising Tactics

    -His search for a first patient began when he started placing ads in the newspaper classified section

    -Example Business Card:  Jack Kevorkian, MD...Bioethics...Special Death Counseling.  By Appointment Only.

    -In March of 1990 a Detroit newspaper carried this article:  "Applications are being accepted.  Oppressed by a fatal disease, a severe handicap, or a crippling deformity?  Write BOX 264, Royal Oak, Mich. 48068-0261. Show him proper compelling medical evidence that you should die, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian will help you kill yourself free of charge."

    -One rejected "patient" was a woman with multiple sclerosis who, he explained, was "not a suitable candidate for the first use of his death machine" because her situation wouldn't garner the favorable coverage he needed for the "initial event".

    -1990- 1st client was Jane Adkins, a 54-year-old Alzheimer's patient, from Portland Oregon.  Since then he has helped over 130 people kill themselves.  

Crossing the Line

    -In 1998 Kevorkian stepped outside of the boundaries of passive euthanasia to active euthanasia when he gave a man lethal injection, rather than simply providing the means for the man to kill himself.

    -He videotaped this and it was aired on CBS's Sixty Minutes.  He dared prosecutors to charge him with murder. 

    -In 1999 prosecutors found him guilty of murder and sentenced him 10 to 25 years in prison.


Is Jack Kevorkian Qualified to Deal With Depressed and Dying People?

* His professional experience has been primarily in the field of pathology (dealing with death bodies and body parts)

* With the exception of his residency and his military service in the 1950s, he has no clinical experience with live patients

*He has zero training or expertise in diagnosing or treating depression, and is completely lacking in any education or expertise in the fields of internal medicine, geriatrics, psychiatry, and neurology

*He has admitted that he is not qualified to practice medicine, even as a general practitioner.  However, he has stated that the decision about who is worthy to use his death machine is based on his medical expertise.

*He does not have a license to practice medicine.  His Michigan license was suspended in 1991 and his California license was suspended in 1993.

        -According to the California Attorney General's office, Kevorkian is "fundamentally unfit to practice medicine".

Jack Kevorkian has constantly violated most of the rules and stands he publicly claims to follow

(Data taken from June 1990 (total= 47 suicides)


Kevorkian says that those who qualify for his help suffer from afflictions that are incurable or cannot be treated without intolerable side effects

    -60 % of his patients were not terminal.  At least 17 could have lived indefinitely and, in 13 cases the people had no complaints of pain

    -Autopsies of  at least 3 of  his suicides revealed no disease at all

Kevorkian says that it is always necessary to bring in a psychiatrist because a person's "mental state is of paramount importance"

   -In 19 cases Kevorkian did not contact psychiatrists 

   -In 5 of those 19 cases the person who dies had a history with depression

Kevorkian says that it is always necessary to contact a pain specialist  or other medical experts when the patient is dealing with pain at all

   -In 33 cases which people complained of pain, he failed to contact a pain specialist in 17 of those cases

Kevorkian stated that after signing a final request, a person must always wait 24 hours before getting help to commit suicide

   -17 cases where Kevorkian's first meeting with the patient was also his last

    -in 5 of those cases less than 3 hours went by from the signing of the request to the moment of death

    -in one case the waiting period was one hour

Supporters of Physician Assisted Suicide Who Disagree With Jack Kevorkian

There are many people who support Euthanasia but not the practices of Jack Kevorkian.  For Kevorkian, each case is handled differently.  There is no consistency and it seems ass if he is randomly picking who gets to die that day/week/month.  in some cases he would follow his rules yet in others they were completely disregarded. 

Carol Poenisch (on the executive board of the Michigan Hemlock Society-a branch of the national right-to-die organization says, "The only regulation Kevorkian will ever adhere to is his own personal judgment.  Under Kevorkian's rules "you cannot make a generalization about who would get this and who wouldn't.  Only Kevorkian gets to decide. 

Data from publicized assisted suicides (1990-1998) 







Last updated: 12/20/2002 11:07