"My intent was to carry out my duty as a doctor, to end their suffering. Unfortunately, that entailed, in their cases, ending of the life."
Dr. Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian (born Murad Kevorkian), also known by his nickname "Dr. Death", was a physician, pathologist, euthanasia activist and convicted murderer.
Kevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan to Levon and Santenig Kevorkian, Armenian immigrants. They had three children together: Margaret, Murad and Flora. He started calling himself "Jack" after a teacher nicknamed him that at school. Strictly religious, the Kevorkians raised their childrens to be Christians, though Jack later started questioning the beliefs; one thing he used as argument was the Armenian Genocide from which his mother had fled. At the age of 12, he stopped attending Sunday school entirely. In school, he enjoyed more artistic activities such as painting and playing the piano, but was also very sceptical of whatever he heard; more often than not, teachers couldn't keep up with his debating skills. He never pursued any romantic relationships because he believed they distracted him from his studies. Kevorkian graduated high school with high honors in 1945, aged 17, and had also taught himself German and Japanese.
At first, Kevorkian studied at the University of Michigan College of Engineering hoping to become a civil engineer, but quickly switched his studies to botany and biology. He finally settled on medical studies, graduating in 1952 and specializing in pathology. In 1953, when the Korean War began, he served 15 months in the U.S. Army as a medical officer and spent the rest of his service time in Colorado. While doing his residency in anatomical and clinical pathology, Kevorkian became fascinated with the act of dying and would photograph the eyes of terminal patients trying to pinpoint the exact moment of death. In 1958, he presented some of his views on euthanasia in a paper to a science journal, proposing that prisoners on death row could be used for medical experiments. Because of his views and odd experiments, his peers nicknamed him "Dr. Death". Because they also led to him becoming a minor celebrity, the university ejected him. He continued his internship at Pontiac General Hospital, where he experimented with transfusing blood from corpses to living patients. The experiments were succesful, but when Kevorkian proposed the idea to the Pentagon, hoping that the technique could be used on battlefields to help injured soldiers, he was for some reason denied a federal grant to continue his research. After becoming qualified as an expert in 1960, Kevorkian worked at different hospitals before settling down in Detroit and opening his own clinic.
In 1987, Kevorkian started advertising himself in newspapers as a physician consultant for "death counseling". His first public assisted suicide was of a 54-year-old Alzheimer patient, Janet Adkins. She had been a member of an organization that advocates voluntary euthanasia for terminal patients. Using a machine he had designed called "the Thanatron", which was built for the purpose of suicide and would first administer a saline solution, then a pain killer and finally a fatal dose of potassium chloride, Kevorkian aided her suicide in a parked Volkswagen in a public park. He was consequentially charged with murder, but since the state of Michigan at the time had an indecisive stand on assisted suicide, he wasn't convicted. In 1991, the Thanatron was barred in Michigan by a legal injunction. Though Kevorkian also lost his medical license, he later claimed to have assisted in over 130 suicides over the following seven years. He designed another suicide machine, "the Mercitron", which basically consisted of a gas mask connected to a canister of carbon monoxide. After a bill prohibiting assisted suicide was passed, Kevorkian found himself on trial for murder four times. In three of those cases he was acquitted because the victims had been the ones who had taken the final action. The fourth ended in a mistrial. In 1998, Kevorkian, rather defiantly, allowed CBS 60 Minutes to air a tape of him euthanizing Thomas Youk, an ALS patient. Afterwards, he dared the legal system to have him prosecuted. Needless to say, he was once again arrested. This time, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. On June 1, 2007, only eight years into his sentence, he was paroled on good behavior on the condition that he wouldn't assist in any more suicides, though it didn't stop from lecturing about assisted suicide. He spent the remainder of his life doing that and was also an oil painter and jazz musician, releasing some of his work to the public. In 2008, he announced that he was planning to run for Congress as an independent candidate, but he wasn't elected. On June 3, 2011, he passed away from thrombosis. His epitaph reads "He sacrificed himself for everyone's rights".
Note: While Kevorkian, according to Wikipedia, assisted in the suicides of over 130 people, the following is the one death for which he served time in prison
- September 17, 1998: Thomas Youk, 52 (suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease)
- Kevorkian's nickname of "Dr. Death" has been ascribed to several other people who worked in medicine and were involved in murder somehow. Some examples are British serial killer Harold Shipman, Nazi war criminals Josef Mengele and Aribert Heim, and Russian serial killer Maxim Petrov.
On Criminal Minds
Kevorkian was mentioned in Children of the Dark when an unsub working at an animal pound, Ervin Robles, is jokingly described by his employer as the "on-site Kevorkian" due to him usually being the one who euthanizes animals that are left in the pound.