Michigan library acquires papers of assisted-suicide advocate Dr. Kevorkian

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2015 12:22 PM

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Reuters) - A University of Michigan library said on Tuesday that it has acquired the papers of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an assisted-suicide advocate known nationally as "Dr. Death" for helping more than 100 people end their lives.

The papers, which were donated by Kevorkian's niece Ava Janus, comprise materials spanning 1911 to 2014 and are open to the public, according to the university's Bentley Historical Library.

“The release of his papers will allow scholars and students to understand the context of and driving forces in an interesting and provocative life,” library director Terrence McDonald said in a statement.

A pathologist, Kevorkian, who died at the age of 83 in 2011, was focused on death and dying long before he ignited a polarizing national debate on assisted suicide.

Some viewed the Pontiac, Michigan, native as a hero who allowed the terminally ill to die with dignity, while critics reviled him as a cold-blooded killer who preyed on those suffering from chronic pain and depression.

Kevorkian started his assisted-suicide campaign in 1990, allowing an Alzheimer's patient to kill herself using a machine he devised that enabled her to trigger a lethal drug injection. He was charged with first-degree murder in the case but the charge was dismissed.

However, Kevorkian was convicted for second-degree murder in 1999 after a CBS News program aired a video of him administering lethal drugs to a 52-year-old man suffering from debilitating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Kevorkian was imprisoned for eight years. As a condition of his parole in 2007, he promised not to assist in any more suicides. He did not leave the public eye after his exit from prison, giving occasional lectures and in 2008 running for Congress unsuccessfully.

An HBO documentary on his life and a movie, "You Don't Know Jack," featuring Al Pacino, brought him back into the limelight in 2010.

Kevorkian was dubbed "Dr. Death" by colleagues during his medical residency in the 1950s when he asked to work the night shift at Detroit Receiving Hospital so he could be on duty when more people died.

The collection includes correspondence, published works, manuscript drafts, photographs, court records, news coverage, medical histories, photographs and video and audio recordings.

Olga Virakhovskaya, Bentley’s lead archivist who processed the materials, said perhaps the most intriguing parts of the collection are lesser known materials relating to Kevorkian’s personal interests and documents and photographs from the Kevorkian family.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Bill Trott)