Dr. Jack Kevorkian dead at 83
June 3rd, 2011
08:49 AM ET

Dr. Jack Kevorkian dead at 83

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who put assisted suicide on the world's medical ethics stage, died early Friday, according to a spokesman with Beaumont Hospital. He was 83.

The assisted-suicide advocate had been hospitalized in Michigan for pneumonia and a kidney-related ailment, his attorney Mayer Morganroth has said.

The music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Kevorkian's favorite musician, was put on the intercom so he could hear the music as he was dying, Morganroth said.

The 83-year-old former pathologist had struggled with kidney problems for years and had checked into a hospital earlier this month for similar problems, his lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, told CNN last month. He checked back into Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak on May 18 after suffering a relapse, Morganroth said.

Kevorkian, dubbed "Dr. Death," made national headlines as a supporter of physician-assisted suicide and "right-to-die" legislation. He was charged with murder numerous times through the 1990s for helping terminally ill patients take their own lives.

He was convicted on second-degree murder charges in 1999 stemming from the death of a patient who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. He was paroled in 2007.

After his release, he said he would not help end any more lives.

In an interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta last year, Kevorkian said he had no regrets about his work.

"No, no. It's your purpose (as a) physician. How can you regret helping a suffering patient?" he said.

In that interview, Kevorkian said that he had three missions in life and that he himself was not ready to die.

One of his missions was to warn mankind of "impending doom" that will come from the culture of overabundance.

"I'm not going to be too popular for that one," he said.

His second mission was to educate people about assisted suicide, and his belief that in states where assisted suicide has been legalized, it is not being done right. He believed that people shouldn't have to be terminal in order to qualify for help in ending their own lives.

Kevorkian's third stated mission was to convince Americans that their rights are being infringed upon by bans on everything from smoking to assisted suicide.

In 2008, at the age of 79, he had a failed run for Congress in Michigan.

Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press it appears Kevorkian suffered a pulmonary thrombosis when a blood clot from his leg broke free and lodged in his heart. With Kevorkian were his niece Ava Janus and Morganroth.

“It was peaceful," Morganroth told the paper. "He didn’t feel a thing."

Kevorkian's interviews with CNN in past years:

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: I've rarely been at a loss for words when conducting an interview



soundoff (1,212 Responses)
  1. Not All Docs Play Golf

    It is a shame that Dr. Kevorkian set his own important cause back decades in this country because of his defiant approach. Death with dignity is an important issue that we need to come to rational terms with, but the way he became the civil disobediant flag bearer for the cause only fostered an opposition to his cause, so he really damaged his own cause. Now, a well-organized, zealous religious-based opposition, thanks to him, will make it certain that, for decades to come, a person wracked with pain and sufferring at the end of life who genuinely, after much thought, and after maximal pain-management no longer staisfies their wishes, will have no option other than getting a gun and blowing their brains out all over the bedroom ceiling. And that is a shame, and that is his legacy.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Acaraho

      I completely disagree and you apparently do not get the point. He was a hero to millions who saw him for what he truly was standing up to the medical establishment and the religious fanaticism that is wrecking this country. He is a savior to the thousands who suffered and still suffer from terminal illnesses.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Dant

      You're putting waaay too much blame on him. ANY support for assisted suicide would have been met with resistance. In fact, if it wasn't for his persistence nobody be considering the ethics of it today.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Weix, Palm City FL

      When you are dealing zealous religious-based opposition and government attorneys that couldn't make it in private practice, a defiant in your face approach is the only thing that works. We are dealing with the same type of people in the Middle East and have found that a defiant approach, enforced with guns and bombs, seem to be the only thing that works.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      You are so wrong. And if you are a doctor...you best get more time in schooling and less on the golf course! Oregon is the only state that allows assisted suicide. He did NOT ruin it. He helped intelligent people to put laws into place to make it work legally. Oregon law states that if you have less than 6 months to live, and 3 doctors(not playing golf) sign off on it, then you can end your life and the pain and suffering. So he did do good and it did last. You just have to convince your lawmakers like we did in Oregon.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Here is a link to the Oregon law...read it yourself. His work was not in vain.

      http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx

      June 3, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      To SUE....first, Oregon is a progressive, forward-thinking state. Good for Oregon. That is an exception. What I'm saying is that he set it back in most other conservative states. His personality and approach became a lightening rod for the opposition, and while Oregon has come to terms with this issue, the rest of the country may be slower to come to terms with it because of the way the oposition villainized him, and when the cause comes up, the first image in many people's minds is "Dr. Death" as they labeled him. And secondly...READ MY SCREEN NAME....I do NOT play golf, and as a physician I am proud to not be part of that sterotype. I resent YOUR sterotyping doctors.Don't be so trigger-fingered in your remarks.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      My apologies for coming off so smart azz...part of my personality and humor. Washington state has also adopted the "Death with Dignity" act. Because of Dr. Kavorkian, these two states have this option as opposed to 0 states having that option. Perhaps if more people wanted it, they could write their congressmen and representatives. IMO, progressive thinking is taking hold in America compared to when Dr. Kavorkian was in the spotlight. Perhaps more states would pass the act now.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • ldean50

      WA, OR and MT all have legalized physician assisted suicide.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • PJ

      Now, now. There are plenty of options these days for terminally ill people who wish to end their life. There is no need to blow one's brains out when one can simply discontinue whatever treatment is keeping them alive. The right to discontinue one's treatment at the end of life has been the law for many years now.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      I am your physician nemises who often does not agree with you. But you make a compelling post. I think that Kevorkian wanted to "deliberately" shake up the system to force open political discussion. It is arguable whether he hurt or helped the goal of a lesser-pain death.

      Both of us know that the DEA can come down on terminal care physicians for "over-prescribing" narcotics, which they (the DEA) believe crosses the line to euthanasia.

      Fighting the DEA is at least as important as any death with dignity statute. I for one favor a "numerical system for describing pain cohorts on a sliding scale, based upon diagnoses"...not just "1-10 questions."

      Gather up points...get more narcotics. Look for bony, spinal metatastasies, liver failure, Cheyne-stokes respiration, etc.

      I hope you read this post, doc. I think it is possible for both of us to have a meaningful discussion, at least on this.

      sanjosemike

      June 3, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Reality

    Just wish that he had the time to upgrade his equipment before they took it away. Something a little more flashy with chrome and blinking LED lights, other than bottles hanging from a horizontal rod.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. John McKenna

    A man well ahead of this time..................I hope he's around if I need his help.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Wilder

      Did you read the headline?

      June 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Harry Fisher

      Agree

      June 3, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Dant

      @Wilder lolololol

      June 3, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Osama bin Laden

      wake up white people

      June 3, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Ahead of his time? Not really, murderers and nut cases have been around for a long, long time my friend. And If you are worried about your own end of life, go ahead and completed an Advance Directive.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Fred

    NOW what am I going to do ?!?

    June 3, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Move to Oregon, Fred. We are the only state with the assisted suicide law.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • KJT

      Uhm, complete an Advance Medical Directive?

      June 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chris

    Testing commenting.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Osama bin Laden

    Durka Durka

    June 3, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bob Weaver

    I browsed the comments, expecting to see a bunch of spite and hate – but I am pleased at the respect that many people obviously had for Dr. Kevorkian. Suicide – whether assisted or not – is such a taboo subject in our society. I think it's a personal choice that the government has no right to "legislate". If someone is going to die of a terminal illness, it is usually better to get it over with quickly, rather than having a long drawn out and painful death. Myself, I'd like to see more help for people with mental illness. The pain they endure is no less than people with cancer, yet our society insists on keeping them alive and medicated as long as possible until they snap – usually taking someone else along with them.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      Having lost a brother to suicide due to a severe mental illness, I can say that the survivors' pain is almost unbearable. That's why assisted suicide for mental illness isn't endorsed, because of the survivors. I can't deny the pain of mental illness, having borne it for years before seeking treatment. A friend of mine, though, has a more compassionate view on suicide related to mental illness: she said that God considers such people not in their right minds, and says "You've had enough, come home now." When all you have ahead of you, for the rest of your life, is pain and suffering, I don't see how you could ever be in your right mind again. I wish there was more compassion for such people.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      I am saddened to read such a callous and disrespectful portrayal of people with mental illness.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Why are you picking on people with mental illness? In addition to Jack Kevorkian, plenty of people not seen as mentally ill take the lives of others.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joseph Whitaker

    This article conflicts his age. It states he's 83, then says 82-year-old.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Duane W

    I think he had to the guts to do the right thing and that he should have been allowed to apply his trade. People who choose to die early because of an incurable disease and are suffering should have that choice and it should not be in the government's hands.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Shar

      Kevorkian WAS allowed to apply his trade for quite some time. He successfully offed many good people. Most of them were not terminally ill though. But that was a small matter to the Kevorkster.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessie

      I don't think it takes a lot of guts to kill disabled people. Rather it takes a coward.

      June 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim Weix, Palm City FL

    If there is a Heaven, he is there. If there is a Hell then that is where those who charged him with murder, and the cowardly members of the jury that found him quilty, will go when they die. May they all die a painful death soon and realize how they took away our right to die with dignity.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Myron

      If there is a Heaven (and there is) he would only be there if he placed his faith in Jesus Christ. Who suffered intentionally for those against him. But if there is a Hell (and there is) he's there... suffering eternally. It sad because if he's wrong about suffering, Christianity, & death he's experiencing something he spent his life helping others to avoid. I really wished that we as Christians had shared the good news Jesus has for all of us who are terminally suffering with... a decaying dying physical, mental and most of all spiritual existence. It's only through Christ... though we may suffer can have true eternal life. Because most people desire to live long long healthy lives...but reality shows that is not always true... But we can have eternal life in Christ. Dr. K may have been a good man.... by human standards...But what determines Heaven and Hell is being a godly man... one who places their faith in what Jesus did on the cross (dying and suffering intentionally) so that mankind could live eternally without Dis Ease or Dis Order.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jmmtggl

      No one is taking away your right to die with whatever it is you see as dignity. Treatment withdrawal, living wills, do a little research to set your mind at ease. What is being taken away here is the right to live with disability and there is no dignity in that!

      June 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Reply to Myron: Myron, Kevorkian frequently stated that he was an atheist and did not believe in any god or gods. Any discussion about whether he is in heaven or hell are just ridiculous, as is the "argument" that only people who believe in Jesus go to heaven.

      Oh yes....where was your got in Auschwitz? Asleep at the switch? Dead? At a party? Having a drink? Your god has a LOT to apologize for, it appears....6 million Jews. 20 million Russians...the list goes on...

      June 3, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom V

      Only a mentally ill person would think that the 'right' to die is intertwined with christianity and/or any other religion. When you get to hell, Jack, say hello to Kevorkian for me.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • MATJAN62

      May the same apply to that Judge too Jim. I like the way you think!

      June 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AJ

    The argument in favor of assisted suicide has serious flaws. Almost unanimously, those in favor of assisted suicide are against legalizing suicide for patients who have only "mental" health disorders and they only want it legalized for "physical" disorders. But there is a mountain of evidence proving that many "mental" disorders are actually physical, biological, and chemical in nature. Severe depression is the result of deficient serotonin levels in the brain, and this is very often genetically inherited. Depression, then, can be very much a physical disorder. Depressed patients often attempt unsuccessfully to find a cure for decades, and their depression severely decreases their quality of life. Schizophrenia (excess dopamine in the brain) has, in recent years, been proven to be genetically inherited with physical alterations to specific chromosomes. Why, then, should the pro-euthanasia people be allowed to "discriminate" against depressed & schizophrenic patients by saying that they should not be allowed to commit assisted suicide to escape the intractable suffering of their disorders? The fact that this type of assisted suicide provokes our consciences to react against it is strong evidence that the arguments in favor of euthanasia are seriously flawed.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Dant

      Wow, you are kind of dumb, huh? You just totally don't get it. The cause of the suffering isn't really important. What matters is the quality of life, how treatable it is, and how terminal it is. Someone with depression may want to die, but that emotion/brain problem can be treated with drugs and they WILL change their mind. Someone who can't move from the neck-down and will die in a few years doesn't have many options.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      AJ, first of all you have to only have 6 months or less to live to even be considered for the suicide. Read the law before you speak. Oregon law states this. You also have to have 3 doctors sign off that they agree there is no hope left. This is NOT mental at this point. They may be depressed due to pain, dying, and things you cannot even imagine. Do you know what it is like to know every day may be your last? That every time you see your family it may be the last time? To feel that the next choking spell, you might not have the strength to make it?? Until you do..you really can't speak of knowledge of this subject.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      Have you ever worked with depressed patients in a psychiatric facility? If so, you know that many of them attempt every treatment and counseling program available for decades and find no relief. Sure, many of them do find improvement, but there are many who do not. The severity of their symptoms can be utterly devastating to the quality of their lives. Why would you deny these people the "right" to end their suffering caused by a physical brain disease that is unresponsive to currently available treatments (and even treatments that might become available in the foreseeable future)?

      June 3, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Simple question AJ...Do they have less than 6 months to live? and can 3 doctors say so? That pretty much sums it up. If not , then they don't get to take themselves out. They may be in hell, and I can feel for them, but that doesn't make them candidates for death.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • ldean50

      I hear what you are saying; although, I believe an argument could be made just on the definition of "terminal illness." Most of the mental diseases you mentioned are treatable . . . some treatments merely ease the pain, not cure the pain. I've lived with bi-polar disorder for 57 years w/ a few suicide attempts. I think it would be impossible to call mental illness a terminal illness when the pain is fleeting – even catatonic depression is known to abate. My personal opinion is that it should be available to people with mental illnesses; but I would never vote for it.

      June 3, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • ldean50

      AJ . . .I think you show great compassion for people who suffer from mental illness. You are so right. Many suffer all their lives without relief. I think it is obvious from the hostile comments posted in response to your comments that the world still does not recognize mental illness as a REAL disease. As long as people believe depression is laziness, everybody gets depressed . . . blah blah blah; then the people who suffer from it are forced to suffer in silence. Just the mere fact that most people outside the medical community don't believe depression is an illness – seems reason enough to make assisted suicide legal for that population – just adds to the 'unbearable likeness of being'.

      June 3, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Zack

      Excellent point AJ!

      June 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Isotta-Fraschini

    Dr. Kevorkian was a great humanitarian and an extremely courageous man.
    Society will benefit enormously from his life.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • KathyNow22

      Disabled people did not benefit from Kevorkian's rampage. Are we not part of society?

      June 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom V

      Wrong. He advanced a culture of death and was judge, jury, and executioner for his patients.. We label Hitler an inhuman monster for what he did – "Dr" Jack did the same and is labeled a saint?

      June 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dtcpr

    A great movie on this topic is "El Mar al dentro" in English the sea inside. It's a movie about a man who is paralyzed and wants to end his suffering. It's in spanish and really ownderul.

    I personally think if it is the patients wish then why not end their suffering.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. jalex

    RIP Jack, world is little behind to realize your importance, they will catch eventually..

    June 3, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Jarred

      Let's hope not. We don't need any more offings of disabled people who are not terminally ill!

      June 3, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hnl

    Goodnight sweet prince... A man of conviction and a true humanitarian.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Agreed! R.I.P. Mr. Kavorkian. You have saved many souls from end time needless suffering. You gave dignity back to the dying. May God have a beautiful place in heaven for you, where there is no disease or dying.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      Well, you might take that back if you saw the videotape of Kevorkian killing Thomas Youk. No, not the edited version shown on TV, but the actual recording shown in full during his last trial. Horrific stuff. Showed Kevorkian for what he was, a truly evil little man.

      June 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      RIP Jack. You brought pain, suffering and death to so many disabled people who were not terminally ill. Shame on you for the harm you have done to people with disabilities and our families.

      June 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
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