Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man also known as "Dr. Death," because he spent several years of his professional life providing doctor-assisted suicide for his patients, had been hospitalized since May, in William Beaumont Hospital, in Royal Oak, suffering from pneumonia and kidney problems. He also suffered a blood clot which originated from his leg and though he instructed his doctors not to place him on a continuing life program, he did not opt for euthanasia as he helped over 130 persons in his career.
Dr. Kevorkian, 83, whose death was reported to have occurred early yesterday, had, according to reports, helped over 130 people to commit suicide. According to Rita Marker, who once debated Dr. Kevorkian, "I think we can…bear in mind that Jack did not go for doctor-assisted or doctor-prescribed suicide for himself."
While many of Kevorkian's supporters have argued that doctor-assisted suicide could be a humanitarian gesture in certain circumstances, Rita Marker thinks that Kevorkian "…had a fixation with death, other people's deaths; and it was truly tragic…"
Dr.Kevorkian had advocated legalizing euthanasia on ethical grounds and in a speech he delivered in 1994, he defined ethics as "saying and doing what is right at the time…(and) doing the right thing changes with time." On another occasion he said, "…dying is not a crime."
Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder and was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on the condition that he would stop offering suicide advice and service to his patients, a practice he began in 1987, when he began advertising in Detroit newspapers as physician consultant for "death counseling."
Kevorkian was first charged with murder in 1990, when he assisted Janet Adkins, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease, but the charges were dropped in December 1990, because there were no laws in Michigan outlawing medically assisted suicide. But between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted the death of over 130 persons with machines he designed and which he called Thanatron ("death machine") and Mercitron ("mercy machine").
His assisted suicide policy was criticized mostly on the grounds that he was not a psychiatrist and thus was not qualified to properly assess his patients for the real cause of depression leading to request of assisted suicide. It was also claimed that some of his patients were not really terminally ill.