I'm fascinated today by the coverage and Twitter buzz about Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The man who made his mark on the world by helping other people leave it died at a hospital in Michigan after suffering worsening kidney and respiratory problems, according to reports.
See Al Pacino's portrayal of Kevorkian in "You Don't Know Jack" above and read below about how news organizations are marking his death.
In an obituary, the New York Times noted how "Dr. Death," who spent eight years in prison for second-degree murder, changed the way we think about end-of-life care:
Dr. Kevorkian challenged social taboos about disease and dying, willfully defying prosecutors and the courts as he actively sought national celebrity. He spent eight years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of the last of the more than 100 terminally ill patients whose lives he helped end.
From June 1990, when he assisted in the first suicide, until March 1999, when he was sentenced to serve 10 to 25 years in a maximum security prison, Dr. Kevorkian was a controversial figure. But his critics and supporters generally agree on this: As a result of his stubborn and often intemperate advocacy for the right of the terminally ill to choose how they die, hospice care has boomed in the United States, and physicians have become more sympathetic to their pain and more willing to prescribe medication to relieve it.
Time Magazine opened its story with this quote:
"My specialty is death," Dr. Jack Kevorkian told TIME back in 1993 as he burnished his qualifications to counsel people on taking their own lives. The white-haired, wiry physician cited his specialization and, with no evidence of humility, declared, "If not a pathologist, who? Would you have a pediatrician do it? Or let's get more absurd. What if I was a urologist? Could I help only men end their lives?"
The Detroit Free Press has reaction from relatives of the people Kevorkian helped to die. One man said his family is "eternally grateful" for what Kevorkian did for his father.
The Los Angeles Times recounted the story of the first assisted suicide Kevorkian conducted in the back of his van in 1990. "Have a nice trip," he told Janet Adkins, the 54-year-old Oregon woman who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He then called the police to report what he had done.
Interested in more? The Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown is displaying paintings by Kevorkian.
What is Kevorkian to you: a murderer or a figure of compassion? Why? And how has the way we view death changed since Adkins' assisted suicide?
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
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