Jack Kevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1928. His parents were refugees in America who escaped the massacres in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Levon and Satenig met through the Armenian community in Pontiac where they married and began their small family. Jack was the second child to Levon and Satenig whose birth name is actually Murad Kevorkian. Kevorkian graduated from high school with honors and enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1945.
Kevorkian graduated from medical school in 1952 with a specialization in pathology. In 1956, Kevorkian published an article where he discussed his efforts to photograph the eyes of dying patients. His study earned him the lifelong nickname of “Dr. Death.”
Kevorkian started his medical career with controversial and unconventional medical ideas. In 1958, he proposed medical experimentation on consenting convicts during executions. This idea was squashed by his boss at the University of Michigan. In 1961, he published his experiments on transfusing blood from cadavers to live patients. The idea was successful, however, was rejected by the government.
In the 1980’s Kevorkian’s fascination with euthanasia began and he published a series of articles in a German medical journal that laid out his thinking on the ethics of the subject. In 1987, Kevorkian began advertising himself in local newspapers as a physician consultant for death counseling.
In 1989, Kevorkian built a “suicide machine” that would help ailing individuals end their life humanely. In 1990, Kevorkian’s machine was used to help Janet Adkins die. As a result, an Oakland County Circuit Court prohibited Kevorkian from aiding in any suicides. However, in 1991, Kevorkian attended the deaths of Marjorie Wantz and Sherry Miler. The Board of Medicine immediately revoked Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine.
Between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted in the deaths of 130 terminally ill patients. Kevorkian maintains that the individuals took their own lives and that his only assistance had been to attach his euthanasia device “Thanatron” or gas mask “Mercitron.” In 1995, several doctors and medical experts banded together to announce their support of Kevorkian and of medically assisted euthanasia.
In 1996, Kevorkian was interviewed by Andy Rooney (one of our previous Atheists of the Week) who asked Jack about religion and god. Kevorkian stated during the interview that he was disgusted by public policy based on religion. He also discussed his frustration with the irrationality of religion and his belief that the great majority of wars in history were caused by religion. Later in the year, Kevorkian announced himself as an agnostic.
In 1998, Kevorkian released a video tape of voluntary euthanasia to CBS’s 60 Minutes. Kevorkian was charged with second degree murder and was found guilty in 1999. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison, eligible for parole in 6 years. Kevorkian was sent to prison in Coldwater, Michigan.
In 2005, Kevorkian was denied parole. He was, however, paroled in 2007 for good behavior.
Kevorkian has since campaigned for the legalization of assisted suicide. He has lectured around the country in universities and has made numerous appearances on national news channels.
Kevorkian’s life has also been made into a film titled You Don’t Know Jack and was portrayed by Al Pacino. Pacino won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role and he personally thanked Kevorkian who walked the red carpet and attended the awards ceremonies with Pacino.
Kevorkian continues to be the leading advocate for doctor assisted suicide.
In tribute to his life work, I am reblogging my profile of Jack Kevorkian.via helvetebrann