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'Dr. Death' Jack Kevorkian dies

Dr. Jack Kevorkian passed away at the age of 83. wy/vg/Vaughn Gurganian/POOL UPI
Dr. Jack Kevorkian passed away at the age of 83. wy/vg/Vaughn Gurganian/POOL UPI | License Photo

ROYAL OAK, Mich., June 3 (UPI) -- Jack Kevorkian, 83, the Michigan doctor whose advocacy for assisted suicide created havoc for medical ethicists and law agencies, died Friday, his lawyer said.

Mayer Morganroth said Kevorkian died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., where he was hospitalized for about two weeks with kidney and heart problems, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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Morganroth said it appears Kevorkian suffered a pulmonary thrombosis when a blood clot in his leg dislodged and settled in his heart. The attorney said he and Kevorkian's niece were with the pathologist when he died.

"It was peaceful. He didn't feel a thing," Morganroth said, adding that no artificial means were used to keep Kevorkian alive.

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Hospital staff said Kevorkian's passing was "a tremendous loss and I agree with them," Morganroth said. "He did so much."

Morganroth said he doubted whether anyone would assume Kevorkian's role in assisted suicide, the Free Press said

"Who else would take those kind of risks?" the attorney asked.

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Morganroth said there are no plans for a memorial.

Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison but was released in 2007. Last year, he was the subject of "You Don't Know Jack," an award-winning HBO movie starring Al Pacino.

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He was born Youran Kevorkian on May 26, 1928, in Pontiac, Mich., the son of Louis and Satana Kevorkian, who settled in the Detroit area after fleeing Armenia.

Called a hero by some and a serial killer by others, Kevorkian became known around the world as "Dr. Death" for his self-styled crusade for assisted suicide.

In June 1990 he thrust himself onto the public stage by declaring his first assisted suicide in suburban Detroit. He helped a 54-year-old Oregon woman die in the back of his Volkswagen van with his so-called "suicide machine." Alzheimer's patient Janet Adkins pressed a button that sent potassium chloride into her veins, stopping her heart.

In the next eight years, Kevorkian attended the deaths of more than 120 people in Michigan, including people from several other states and Canada who traveled to Detroit to die. In most cases Kevorkian provided the means for suicide. Others, due to physical impairments, were euthanized. Aiding him at the scenes were longtime friend Janet Good or, after she died of cancer, psychiatrist Dr. Georges Reding.

Bodies were dropped off at hospital emergency rooms, left in motel rooms or homes where the deaths occurred, or found in vehicles parked outside Detroit-area morgues. Families of the deceased supported Kevorkian. Nearly every death prompted a police investigation.

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Outraged by his behavior but stumped by legal loopholes, the state of Michigan enacted separate laws banning assisted suicide in 1993 and 1998. In addition, the Michigan Supreme Court declared assisted suicide a violation of common law.

In November 1998 Kevorkian was convicted of resisting arrest in a May scuffle with police during a body drop-off. He was fined and placed on two years probation.

Eighteen days after the conviction, the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" broadcast a videotape Kevorkian gave the network to force a legal showdown over the right-to-die issue. Kevorkian had defiantly administered a lethal injection to a 52-year-old man and videotaped the session in September, less than three weeks after the state's second assisted suicide ban took effect.

The video triggered another Kevorkian arrest, this time for murder, assisting in a suicide and delivery of a controlled substance.

On numerous occasions Kevorkian openly challenged police, prosecutors and lawmakers, often calling them "Nazis" and "Gestapo." He also blasted religious authorities who criticized him and medical groups that opposed his position, especially the American Medical Association.

Kevorkian never married and once said in an interview his life was a failure. He said: "If I had married, I'd have kids -- kids and family are everything."

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