Dr. Jack Kevorkian, whose name became eventually fairly synonymous with assisted suicide, has died in a Michigan hospital at the age of 83.
Dr. Kevorkian, a medical pathologist, assisted in more 100 suicides in patients who were terminally ill in the 1990’s. At the end of the decade, he was sentenced to time in prison for his role in the suicide of the last patient he helped die as they wished. Dr. Kevorkian was notably passionate about the rights of patients to choose to die over living in pain under a death sentence, and nearly single-handedly sparked the intense debate over the issue in the US during the 90’s.
While Dr. Kevorkian was widely criticized for his controversial stance an declared a “threat” by the American Medical Association, one local journalist spoke highly of Kevorkian’s work:
“Jack Kevorkian, faults and all, was a major force for good in this society. He forced us to pay attention to one of the biggest elephants in society’s living room: the fact that today vast numbers of people are alive who would rather be dead, who have lives not worth living.”
As with many ongoing moral debates in America, Kevorkian had critics:
Diane Coleman, the founder of Not Dead Yet, a right-to-life advocacy group that once picketed Dr. Kevorkian’s home in Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb, attacked his approach. “It’s the ultimate form of discrimination to offer people with disabilities help to die,” she said, “without having offered real options to live.”
Dr. Kevorkian’s cause of death was not immediately known, but the doctor had been suffering from “kidney and respiratory problems” in the past few days and his condition had degraded from when it was first reported. The doctor is survived by a sister living in Germany, Flora Holzheimer.