Suicide backer 'Doctor Death' dies in hospital
THE doctor who spurred on the right-to-die debate with a homemade suicide machine has died in a US hospital aged 83 after a short illness.
Jack Kevorkian died in Detroit, where he had been hospitalised since May with pneumonia and kidney problems.
Nicknamed 'Dr Death', Kevorkian was catapulted into public consciousness in 1990 when he used his homemade "suicide machine".
In his rusted Volkswagen van he injected lethal drugs into an Alzheimer's patient who sought his help in dying.
He suffered from a blood clot that travelled up from his leg, according to attorney Mayer Morganroth, who was present and said his friend was "totally in peace, not in pain".
"His medical directive was not to be given any CPR or continuing life program," Morganroth said.
The retired pathologist, who said he injected lethal drugs that helped some 130 people die during the 1990s, likened himself to Martin Luther King and Gandhi and called prosecutors Nazis and his critics religious fanatics.
He challenged authorities to stop him or make his actions legal.
"The issue's got to be raised to the level where it is finally decided," Kevorkian said during a TV broadcast that aired a Lou Gehrig's disease patient's videotaped 1998 death as Kevorkian challenged prosecutors to charge him in the case that eventually sent him to prison.
Experts credit Kevorkian, who insisted that people had the right to have a medical professional help them die, with publicising physician-assisted suicide. Even so, few states made it legal.
"Somebody has to do something for suffering humanity," Kevorkian once said. "I put myself in my patients' place. This is something I would want."
In the end, however, he was too weak to take advantage of the deadly option he offered others, said Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's former attorney.
"If he had enough strength to do something about it, he would have," Fieger said at a news conference in Southfield.
"Had he been able to go home Jack Kevorkian probably would not have allowed himself to go back to the hospital."
The former prosecutor whose office convicted Kevorkian of second-degree murder said he found a trace of hypocrisy in Kevorkian's death.
"I assumed that someday he'd commit suicide and tape it and air it for the world to see," said David Gorcyca, who oversaw prosecutions in the Detroit suburbs of Oakland County.