Assisted Suicide Crusader Jack Kevorkian Dies in Hospital

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 3, 2011   |   9:07AM   |   Detroit, MI

Jack Kevorkian, the infamous assisted suicide advocate who served years in prison for killing a disabled man on national television, died in a hospital today after being admitted for kidney problems and pneumonia.

Kevorkian, known to those who opposed his killing of more than 130 patients via assisted suicide as “Dr. Death,” died, apparently of pulmonary thrombosis, at Beaumont Hospital and had just turned 83.

In late May, his attorney informed the media that Kevorkian was rushed to William Beaumont Hospital in suburban Detroit, Michigan Wednesday night after reportedly feeling weak. Mayer Morganroth, his longtime attorney, told the newspaper Kevorkian is not in “grave danger,” but indicated his health is poor.

He said, at the time, Kevorkian was reluctant to go to the hospital but is suffering from kidney problems and pneumonia that comes with his advancing age. Morganroth said he expected to stay in the hospital for a few days but he stayed for weeks.

As far back as December 2005, Morganroth explained how prison caused Kevorkian’s health to deteriorate quickly, saying “it now appears that the Hepatitis C Dr. Kevorkian contacted while testing blood transfusions given to American soldiers during Vietnam is attacking his liver.” Morganroth also said Kevorkian suffers from dangerously high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, temporal arteritis, peripheral arthritis, adrenal insufficiency, chronic pulmonary obstruction disease and cataracts.

“It was peaceful, he didn’t feel a thing,” Morganroth said of Kevorkian’s death, according to the Detroit News.

Wesley J. Smith, a top bioethics attorney who opposes assisted suicide and has followed Kevorkian closely, talked about his death.

“Kevorkian was a disturbed man who, I fear, understood his society–and the media–all too well.  And that may be his legacy.  He perceived how far some will bend to rationalize even the most egregious wrongdoing or advocacy if the excuse is relieving suffering.  Time will tell if he was also a prophet of a dark utilitarian society to come,” he said.

Smith added: “What is the proper response to the death of someone like Kevorkian? We should, at least for the moment, set disputes aside and hope that in whatever comes next, he finds forgiveness and peace.  In this regard, Kevorkian was a death-obsessed atheist who zealously believed that when he died–nothing.  He now knows (or doesn’t) whether he was right.”

Smith says Kevorkian began his career going where executions are conducted asking to experiment on condemned prisoners. Kevorkian took the kidneys from one assisted suicide victim–a man with quadriplegia–and held a press conference offering them “first come, first served.”

“He never limited his killing practice to people with terminal illnesses. About 70% were disabled. Five of Kevorkian’s patients were not sick upon autopsy,” Smith noted.

Father Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, emailed LifeNews in response to the news that Kevorkian had passed away.

Pavone said: “All of us at Priests for Life pray for the soul of Jack Kevorkian, as we do for all who have died. And we renew our commitment to proclaim that life is better than death. Every life has burdens. When we respond to the call to bear one another’s burdens, then we close the door to despair. Those who promote the so-called ‘right to die’ are heralds of despair. We, on the other hand, are heralds of hope. And as for the ‘right to die,” I say, “Don’t worry – you won’t miss out on it.”

Kevorkian, a former pathologist, was convicted in April 1999 of killing Thomas Youk, a Detroit-area man with Lou Gehrig’s disease whose death was shown on the CBS television show “60 Minutes.” He argued the murder was a euthanasia or mercy killing, but was sentenced for 10 to 25 years in prison. He was released in 2007 and eventually ran for Congress and advised Al Pacino in making a cable television bio  “You Don’t Know Jack,” the HBO film that earned Pacino an Emmy and Golden Globe.

Last year Kevorkian told CNN that he has no regrets about killing more than 100 people in assisted suicides. He also told medical correspondent and physician Sanjay Gupta that he regrets his birth.

“Let me tell you something,” Kevorkian said before Gupta could begin the interview. “Is that what this is about — you want to know how I really feel, what makes me tick? I have no regrets, none whatsoever.”

Gupta still had not asked a single question when Kevorkian interjected: “Sanjay, you want to know the single worst moment of my life?”

“The single worst moment of my life… was the moment I was born,” Kevorkian told the CNN interviewer.

Gupta admits he was taken aback by the conversation.

“There haven’t been many times when I have been at a loss for words when conducting an interview as a medical reporter. This was one of those moments,” he said. “It was windy outside, but it was also over 90 degrees in sunny Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was now sweating, and he was … well, cold.”

In the interview, Kevorkian told CNN he doesn’t earn any money from the recent movie starring Al Pacino that bears his name and was shown on HBO. Gupta says Kevorkian, “not surprisingly” advocates assisted suicide — or as the former pathologist calls it, a “medical procedure” called “patholysis.”