Jack Kevorkian, pathologist & author, died at 83

  Dead Famous

Dead, Jack Kevorkian on June 3, 2011, he was an American pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer, and instrumentalist.

Born in Pontiac, Michigan to Armenian immigrants, his father Levon was born in the village of Passen, near Erzurum, and his mother Satenig was born in the village of Govdun, near Sivas.

His father moved from Turkey in 1912 and made his way to Pontiac, where he found work at an automobile foundry.

Satenig fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, finding refuge with relatives in Paris, and eventually reuniting with her brother in Pontiac.

Levon and Satenig met through the Armenian community in their city, where they married and began their family.

In 1987, Kevorkian started advertising in Detroit newspapers as a physician consultant for “death counseling”.

His first public assisted suicide, of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old woman diagnosed in 1989 with Alzheimer’s disease, took place in 1990.

Charges of murder were dropped on December 13, 1990, as there were, at that time, no laws in Michigan regarding assisted suicide.

In 1991, however, the State of Michigan revoked Kevorkian’s medical license and made it clear that given his actions, he was no longer permitted to practice medicine or to work with patients.

Levon and Satenig were strict and religious parents, who worked hard to make sure their children, were obedient Christians.

Jack, however, had trouble reconciling what he believed were conflicting religious ideas.

His family regularly attended church, and Jack often railed against the idea of miracles and an all-knowing God in his weekly Sunday school class.

If there were a God who could make his son walk on water, Kevorkian insisted, he would also have been able to prevent the Turkish slaughter of his entire extended family.

Jack debated the idea of God’s existence every week until he realized he would not find an acceptable explanation to his questions, and stopped attending church entirely by the age of 12.

Accepted into the University Of Michigan College Of Engineering, Kevorkian had aims to become a civil engineer.

Halfway through his freshman year, however, he became bored with his studies and began focusing on botany and biology.

By midyear, he had set his sights on medical school, often taking 20 credit hours in a semester in order to meet the 90-hour medical school requirement.

He graduated in medicine at the University of Michigan in 1952, and began a specialty in pathology soon after.

In 1953, however, the Korean War abruptly halted Kevorkian’s career.

He served 15 months as an Army medical officer in Korea, and then finished his service in Colorado.

In April 1960 he testified before a Joint Judicial Committee in Columbus, Ohio to revise the death penalty and to legalize medical experimentation on condemned inmates.

In 1976 he moved to Los Angeles, California. He changed jobs frequently.

Between 1982 to 86 he mainly did his writing and research.

In 1988, even the pro-suicide Hemlock Society founder, Derek humphry rebuffed his methods as “too perilous and risky”.

In 1989 after reading about a patient who had asked for euthanasia he began working on a lethal-injection machine that would be able to do the task at the ‘flip of a switch’.

It was called the Thanatron (and later Mercitron). He got a lot of publicity because of this.

On June 4, 1990 he performed the first of his ‘medicides’ as he liked to call physician-assisted suicide.

His ‘client’ was a 54 year old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. She had contacted him herself after reading his ads in the papers.

It was performed in the back of his VW van. She received sodium pentothal (an anesthetic) and potassium chloride (to stop the heart).

He is survived by his sister, Flora Kevorkian Holzheimer. His sister, Margo Kevorkian Janus, died in 1994.