Jack Kevorkian speaks after his release from prison

Jack Kevorkian speaks after his release from prison

Jack Kevorkian after his release in 2007By Monica Davey


SOUTHFIELD, Mich., June 3 ? Jack Kevorkian, the former pathologist once known as Doctor Death, says he will never again counsel a terminally ill person on how to die. But eight years behind bars and a strict list of promises to gain parole have done nothing to mellow the blunt, passionate, combative advocate for physician-assisted suicide.


In an interview here on Sunday, two days after his release from prison, Mr. Kevorkian, 79, let loose a rush of fierce words about a nation that did not pass any new laws allowing assisted suicide while he was in prison. Again and again, he called the government ?the tyrant.? He called the public ?sheep.? He called some of his harshest critics ?religious fanatics or nuts.?


Mr. Kevorkian says he assisted with more than 130 suicides in the 1990s, when he drew national attention to questions about what rights people have when it comes to dying. Asked whether he would turn away a gravely ill person seeking his guidance now, he said gruffly, ?I can?t help them.?


Mr. Kevorkian, convicted in one of those 130 cases of second-degree murder, has agreed in his parole provisions not to help anyone else commit suicide. ?Sorry,? he said. ?Don?t blame me. Blame your government for passing the laws.?


Mr. Kevorkian seemed gloomy, too, about whether laws allowing assisted suicide would ever expand much beyond Oregon, the only state that has legalized the practice under certain circumstances. Of the United States becoming one of the countries to allow it, he said: ?It?ll be the last one, if it does ever. It?s a tyrannical country.?


Mr. Kevorkian also criticized the existing Oregon law ? and other proposed legislation, including a bill being considered in the California Legislature this week ? as not going far enough. Most proposed laws require ill people to administer the lethal drugs themselves, which Mr. Kevorkian said would exclude people unable to move or swallow on their own and in need of a physician?s direct help.


?What they?re pushing for is not complete,? he said. ?They always accused me of being radical. I?m not radical. I?m making sure it?s complete and well done.?


In the interview in his lawyer?s office here, Mr. Kevorkian, gaunt at 126 pounds and dressed in a worn jacket, described his plans for educating the public (about the Ninth Amendment, which says that rights not otherwise addressed by the Constitution are reserved for the people), recalled his years behind bars (?loud? and ?boring?), and reflected on the deaths that drew so much focus to euthanasia and assisted suicide.


In 1999, Mr. Kevorkian was convicted of giving a fatal injection to Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man who had Lou Gehrig?s disease. A videotape of the death was broadcast on national television, after Mr. Kevorkian gave it to ?60 Minutes? along with an interview in which he challenged prosecutors to charge him with a crime.


Asked whether he had any regrets about that period, Mr. Kevorkian said, mostly not. If anything, he said, he wished he had sought different legal advice. ?Everything else had to be done,? he said.


In recent days, religious leaders and opponents of assisted suicide have expressed outrage at Mr. Kevorkian?s release from prison and at the avalanche of publicity that has followed. Ned McGrath, an official with the Archdiocese of Detroit, which represents 1.4 million Roman Catholics, issued a statement comparing Mr. Kevorkian?s actions to those of a ?pathological serial killer.? Even some supporters of assisted suicide have sought to distance themselves from Mr. Kevorkian for his flamboyant, blunt image and for his failure to wait for the laws to change.


Mr. Kevorkian once wore a wig and a costume to court to make a point. With great fanfare, he offered the kidneys of one person he helped commit suicide to those in need of a transplant. He burned state orders that he stop assisting suicides.


On Sunday, Mr. Kevorkian discounted his critics and said he did not care what his legacy might be in the assisted-suicide movement. ?I did it right,? he said. ?I didn?t care what they did or didn?t do. When I?m going to do it, I?m going to do it right.?


For the time being, Mr. Kevorkian is staying with friends in Michigan. He will live on a hospital pension and Social Security ? a total of about $900 a month, according to state officials, who say his incarceration cost taxpayers about $250,000.


Mayer Morganroth, his current lawyer, said Mr. Kevorkian had been offered speaking fees that might bring $50,000 to $100,000, but Mr. Kevorkian said he had not made any decisions about the speaking circuit. Any talk about assisted suicide, he said, would have to be brief because the provisions of his parole prevent him from going into much detail.


?You see, I?m still in prison,? he said. ?I?m on a tether. I?m on a virtual tether. If you don?t behave, you go back to prison.?


Mr. Kevorkian, who must check in with his parole officer each week, is barred from counseling anyone on suicide, but he can advocate for laws, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.


?His parole officer used the analogy of nuclear weapons,? Mr. Marlan said. ?One could advocate the use of them, but you can?t tell people how to build a nuclear bomb.?


Mr. Kevorkian, who quipped when an aide sought his drink request that he would have ?cyanide,? grew grimly serious when told that his critics did not believe him when he said he would not offer suicide advice to another ill person.


?I said I won?t do it again,? he said, ?and it?s not even worth doing again by me because it?d be counterproductive to what I?m fighting for. It?s up to others. If you people don?t want that right, then don?t do it. Then let your government trample all over you. If you don?t want to do it, it?s all right by me, but you don?t get me talking about it and going back to that thing called prison.?


During his time in prison, he said, he completed two self-published books, ?Amendment Nine: Our Cornucopia of Rights? and a collection of paintings, music, limericks and philosophy on life and death. He said he made friends in prison, but also enemies, including some who opposed his political views.


Mainly, he said, prison was boring. ?The same routine, the same people, over and over again.?


Mr. Kevorkian said he had struggled with illnesses, including hepatitis C, high blood pressure and other ailments. He said he had pondered his own death regularly. ?I want this choice when I get there if I want to,? he said.


Mr. Kevorkian said he was never bothered by his Doctor Death nickname. ?They?re right in a way,? he said, pointing out that his focus, as a former pathologist, was always death and dying.


?Everyone is going to die,? he said. ?Aren?t you interested in what?s going to happen??



1) Jack Kevorkian was released from prison on Friday after serving eight years for second-degree murder.

2) (Below) Mr. Kevorkian, in 1991 with his ?suicide machine,? says he participated in more than 130 assisted suicides.


Jack Kevorkian in 1991