Jack Kevorkian

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Jack Kevorkian mug shot
Birthplace Pontiac
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Languages Armenian, English, German, Japanese
Ethnicities Armenian
Dialects Western Armenian
Ancestral villages Passen, Govdun

Jack Kevorkian, M.D. (born Pontiac, Michigan, May 29, 1928 – June 3, 2011), also known as "Dr. Death" is a controversial American pathologist. He is most noted for publicly championing a terminal patient's "right to die" and claims to have assisted at least 130 patients to that end. He is famous for his quote "dying is not a crime." Imprisoned in 1999, he served 8 out a 10 to 25 year prison sentence[1] for second-degree murder in the 1998 poisoning of Thomas Youk, 52, of Oakland County, Michigan. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on condition that he would not offer suicide advice to any other person.[1]

Contents

Career

Kevorkian started advertising in Detroit papers in 1987 as a physician consultant for "death counseling." Between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted in the suicide of nearly one hundred terminally ill people, according to his lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. In each of these cases, the individuals themselves took the final action which resulted in their own deaths: voluntary euthanasia. Dr. Kevorkian allegedly assisted only by attaching the individual to a device that he had made. The individual then pushed a button which released the drugs or chemicals that would end his or her own life. Two deaths were assisted by means of a device which employed a needle and delivered the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. Kevorkian called it a "Thanatron" (death machine). Other patients were assisted by a device which employed a gas mask fed by a canister of carbon monoxide which was called "Mercitron" (mercy machine). This became necessary because Kevorkian's medical license had been revoked after the first two deaths, and he could no longer get the substances required for "Thanatron".

On the November 24, 1998 broadcast of 60 Minutes, Kevorkian allowed the airing of a videotape he had made on September 17, 1998, which featured the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, an adult male with full decisional capacity who was in the final stages of ALS. After Youk provided his fully-informed consent on September 17, 1998, Kevorkian administered a lethal injection. This was novel to other patients as Kevorkian administered the injection himself as opposed to having Youk complete the process. This incited the district attorney to bring murder charges against him, claiming that Kevorkian single-handedly caused the death. Kevorkian filmed the procedure and the death and submitted it for broadcast on "60 Minutes."

During much of this period, Kevorkian was represented by attorney Geoffrey Fieger.

On January 15, 2011, Kevorkian spoke to a sold out crowd at UCLA's Royce Hall Auditorium, an event hosted by the university's Armenian Students' Association, as well as the Armenian American Medical Society of California.[2][3][4] The talk was followed by a question and answer session, moderated by Raffi Hovannisian, the first Foreign Minister of Armenia and the leader of the Heritage party in Armenia. Topics discussed were his Armenian upbringing in Pontiac, Michigan; the Ninth Amendment; the preservation of Armenian Culture in the diaspora; and end-of-life issues. Kevorkian also spoke of his time in prison, telling the audience the worst parts of his eight-year and two-month sentence were "the snoring" and "windows during winter." He instructed the Armenian diaspora that the most important anchor they had was the Armenian language.[5]

Conviction and imprisonment

Kevorkian was tried numerous times over the years for assisting in suicides. Many of these trials took place in Oakland County, Michigan. In every instance prior to the Thomas Youk case, Kevorkian was acquitted.

Kevorkian was even beginning to gain some public support for his cause, as is evidenced by the defeat of Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson to David Gorcyca in the Republican primary. The result of the political election was attributed, in part, to the declining public support from the prosecution of Kevorkian and its associated legal expenses.

Kevorkian also demonstrated a flair for dramatic publicity stunts at this time, showing up to one trial in a powdered wig and protesting an incarceration pursuant to another trial by staging a hunger strike. He also wore a placard challenging the Oakland County prosecutor to bring him to trial for the death of Youk.

On March 26, 1999, Kevorkian was charged with second-degree homicide and also for the delivery of a controlled substance (administering a lethal injection to Thomas Youk). Unlike the prior trials involving an area of law in flux (assisted suicide), the law of homicide is relatively fixed and routine. Kevorkian, however, discharged his attorneys and proceeded through the trial pro se (representing himself). The judge ordered a criminal defense attorney to remain available at trial for information and advice. Inexperienced in law and persisting in his efforts to appear pro se, Kevorkian encountered great difficulty in presenting his evidence and arguments.

The Michigan jury found Kevorkian guilty of second-degree homicide. It was proven that he had directly killed a person because his patient was not physically able to kill himself. He is currently in prison in Coldwater, Michigan, serving a 10-to-25-year sentence.

In the course of the various proceedings, Kevorkian made statements under oath and to the press that he considered it his duty to assist persons in their death. He also indicated under oath that because he thought laws to the contrary were archaic and unjust, he would persist in civil disobedience, even under threat of criminal punishment. Future intent to commit crimes, of course, is an element courts and parole boards may consider in deciding whether to grant a convicted person relief. Since his conviction (and subsequent losses on appeal), Kevorkian has been denied parole repeatedly.

In an MSNBC interview aired on September 29, 2005, Kevorkian said that if he were granted parole, he would not resume directly helping people die and would restrict himself to campaigning to have the law changed. On December 22, 2005, Kevorkian was denied parole by a board on the count of 7-2 recommending not to give parole.

In a recent interview in ABC News, Kevorkian's lawyer stated that Kevorkian is terminally ill with Hepatitis C, which he contracted during research into blood transfusions and is expected to pass away within a year. Kevorkian had applied for a pardon, parole, or commutation by the parole board or Governor Jennifer Granholm, and on December 13, 2006 it was announced that he would be paroled on June 1, 2007.

Timeline

Some key events in the assisted-suicide campaign of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who said he helped more than 130 people kill themselves during the 1990s:

June 4, 1990 — Jane Markenkalkanankawanka Adkins, 54, of Portland, Ore., becomes the first person to use a suicide machine developed by Kevorkian. Murder charges against him are dropped when a judge rules Michigan has no law against assisted suicide.

November 1991 — Michigan suspends Kevorkian's medical license.

Dec. 15, 1992 — Gov. John Engler signs a temporary law making assisted suicide a four-year felony while a commission studies the issue.

May 2, 1994 — Kevorkian acquitted of assisted suicide.

March 8, 1996 — Kevorkian acquitted of two assisted suicides.

May 14, 1996 — Kevorkian acquitted of two assisted suicides. A judge had dismissed murder charges against him in the same deaths.

June 1997 — Kevorkian accused of assisted suicide. Judge declares a mistrial.

Sept. 1, 1998 — A law passed by the Legislature takes effect, permanently banning assisted suicide. Lawmakers crafted the bill in an effort to get Kevorkian's to stop helping people to kill themselves.

Sept. 17, 1998 — Kevorkian videotapes the injection death of Thomas Youk, shown two months later on CBS' "60 Minutes." Youk suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Nov. 3, 1998 — Michigan voters reject a statewide ballot issue by 71 percent to 29 percent that would have legalized assisted suicide.

Nov. 25, 1998 — Kevorkian charged with murder, assisted suicide and delivery of a controlled substance in Youk's death. Assisted suicide charge later dropped.

March 26, 1999 — Kevorkian convicted of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance. He faces up to life in prison.

April 13, 1999 — Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper sentences Kevorkian to 10 to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder and three to seven years for delivery of a controlled substance.

Nov. 12, 1999 — Kevorkian appeals conviction to Michigan Court of Appeals.

Aug. 24, 2000 — Cooper denies a request to consider releasing Kevorkian on bond pending the appeal of his conviction.

Nov. 21, 2001 — More than 2 1/2 years after Kevorkian's second-degree murder conviction, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously affirms the conviction and declines his request for a new trial.

April 10, 2002 — The Michigan Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision, refuses to review the Court of Appeals decision.

July 17, 2002 — Kevorkian asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his murder conviction and uphold the right to help a terminally ill and suffering patient to die.

Oct. 7, 2002 — The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will not consider Kevorkian's case.

Oct. 1, 2003 — A U.S. District Court judge in Detroit denies a petition seeking Kevorkian's release.

Oct. 6, 2003 — Attorney Geoffrey Fieger says he is renewing his representation of Kevorkian for the first time in five years, saying the assisted suicide proponent should be released from prison and resentenced to time served.

Dec. 1, 2003 — An Oakland County judge denies a motion filed by Fieger asking that Kevorkian be released from prison and resentenced to time served.

Nov. 1, 2004 — The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, rejects another appeal by Kevorkian for a new trial.

Dec. 7, 2004 — The Michigan Parole Board says it will not act on a request from Kevorkian to recommend to Gov. Jennifer Granholm that she grant him parole or commute his sentence. The board says the request is essentially the same one that Granholm rejected a year ago.

Dec. 22, 2005 — Despite reports that Kevorkian's health is failing, the parole board votes to recommend that Granholm deny his application for a commuted sentence or a pardon.

June 22, 2006 — The parole board rejects Kevorkian's claim that he has less than a year to live and so should have his second-degree murder sentence commuted. The matter does not go to the governor.

Dec. 13, 2006 — The Michigan Department of Corrections announces that Kevorkian will be paroled on June 1, 2007.

June 1, 2007 - Paroled.

June 3, 2011 - Died.

Artwork

Kevorkian was in an adult education oil painting course in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1960s. His art combines his knowledge of human anatomy with his fascination with death [2]. Michael Betzold described the 18 canvases he created in this course as "bold and strident, as critical and unforgiving, as pointed and dramatic as Kevorkian's own fighting words. They are strikingly well executed — stark and surreal — and frightening, demented and/or hilarious, depending on one's point of view".

Although the 18 original canvases have been lost, Kevorkian returned to his art in the 1990s to finance his crusade for assisted-suicide.

His art frequently returns to themes of hypocrisy, pain, war, death, self-destruction, suicide, despair and criticisms of contemporary culture and Christianity.

One of his paintings was used on the cover of Acid Bath's album Paegan Terrorism Tactics.

Kevorkian also released a jazz album entitled "A Very Still Life" on which he plays the flute.

Parody & Spoofs

  • In the 1994 film Naked Gun 33 1/3, Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) suggests Frank (Leslie Nielsen) call Dr. Kevorkian after his wife Jane left him.
  • In one episode of Neurotically Yours, Pilz-E confuses a tool (an automatic blood pressure monitor) for a Kevorkian scarf.
  • In one episode of the 1994 TV series The Critic, Duke Phillips is diagnosed with a terminal disease and decides to commit suicide with the help of "Dr. Krekorian". Jay Sherman eventually convinces Duke not to kill himself, to which "Krekorian" laments: "I've never lost a patient before".
  • In the Married With Children episode "Love Conquers Al", after hearing of the Jeffersons' visit to a marriage counselor, Peggy suggests to Al that maybe this doctor might help their marriage, to which Al comments, "No, Peg, the only doctor that can do that is named Kevorkian." [3].
  • American comedian Stephen Lynch's song "Grandfather", from his second album, Superhero, references Kevorkian. The song is about wishing his grandfather will pass away so he can inherit his riches. The line goes, "Oh grandfather die, before the fiscal year. Oh grandfather I, wish Kevorkian were here."
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Grandpa Simpson is depressed and sees a doctor about it. The doctor (Dr. Egoyan, like Kevorkian) suggests assisted suicide and hooks Grandpa up to the "DiePod", a spoof of the iPod.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the family is in a hospital after the character Phillip Banks (James Avery) has a heart attack. The doctor that talks to the family introduces himself as Dr. Kevarkian with an 'a', to which the family reacts in shock. The doctor then informs them of the difference in spelling.
  • On the Weekend Update segment of an episode of Saturday Night Live, Norm MacDonald mocked Dr. Kevorkian's decision to obtain a handgun license and purchase a pistol (for self-defensive purposes) saying "Alright, now he's just getting lazy."
  • The industrial act Grid changed their name to Kevorkian Death Cycle as a statement of support to Kevorkian's cause.
  • A recording name used by New Zealand singer-songwriter Jordan Reyne is Dr Kevorkian and the Suicide machine.
  • In one episode of That's My Bush, President Bush helps Kevorkian break out of jail to assist in the killing of his 24 year old cat.
  • In the spoof film Wrongfully Accused, Dr. Kevorkian's name is paged over the intercom during a humorous scene in a hospital.
  • In the pilot of TV show Grey's Anatomy, "A Hard Day's Night", Meredith says, "If I hadn't taken the Hippocratic Oath, I would Kevorkian her with my bare hands".
  • In anime series Power Dolls , self-destruct system of Power Loaders' (mecha in the game) named "Kevorkian Mode". System displays a last message of "Good-Bye" before blowing itself up.
  • In an episode of South Park, Stan Marsh adduces Kevorkian toward the proposition that it might be permissible for him to assist in his grandfather's suicide. In another episode where the main characters try to save quintuplets from being sent back to Romania, a protester turns pages on his sign, one of which read "Free Kevorkian".
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, in the episode Space Mutiny, upon the sight of an old man, "It's Kevorkian!" is shouted.
  • In the computer game Blood, typing "Kevorkian" into the console kills Caleb (the player character).
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Detective John Munch comments (while investigating the case of a senile woman) that "when the old steel trap starts to rust, it's time to call Kevorkian".
  • In the episode "The Suicide" (episode 13 season 3) in the TV series Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld asks "How long do you have to wait for a guy to come out of a coma before you ask his ex-girlfriend out?". To which the character Cosmo Kramer replies "What Gina? Why wait, why not just call Dr Kevorkian". To which Jerry replies "You know I don't get that whole 'suicide machine', there's no tall buildings where these people live?"
  • Dr. Kevorkian's Chamber of Torture is a band in Savannah, GA.
  • X-RAIDED: In his record XCORCIST, on the track: Liqour, Niggas & Triggas, X-raided mentions various mass suicides and also Jack Kevorkian saying "Let me play that Jack Kevorkian, I'm Dr. Death, assisting a suicide."
  • In one instance in the comic strip The Far Side, the grim reaper is sitting in a movie theatre when he spots Dr. Jack Kevorkian sitting with his girlfriend and the reaper can't remember Kevorkian's name.
  • In the parody film, 'Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th', the school nurse is named Kevorkian.
  • In an Eminem freestyle he says "Dr. Kevorkian has arrived to perform an Autopsy on you when you scream "I'm still alive!""
  • In a Dilbert cartoon, Asok the Intern asks for "the home number of Dr. Kevorkian" after the Pointy-Haired Boss gives him a discouraging "pep talk".
  • Public Enemy featured a song tiled "Kevorkian" on their album "There's a Poison Goin' On".
  • In the children's television show Rugrats, the character Grandpa Boris takes out his cell phone, dials a number, and says "Hello, Dr. Kevorkian" during an especially boring session of family photo slide shows.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's book God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, published in 1999, is a direct reference. In the book, Dr. Kevorkian assists Vonnegut in having near-death experiences which allow him to interview a series of dead historical figures.
  • The Detroit based punk band "The Suicide Machines" were once named "Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines".
  • ECW wrestler Mick Foley once claimed that he was Kevorkian's favourite wrestler. As shown in a clip from The_Rise_and_Fall_of_ECW DVD.

References

  • Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying by Derek Humphry. ISBN 0-385-33653-5.
  • Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (For and Against) by Gerald Dworkin, R. G. Frey (Series Editor), Sissela Bok, 1998: ISBN 0-521-58789-1.
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Anatomy of a Constitutional Law Issue by Arthur Gordon Svenson and Susan M. Behuniak. ISBN 0-7425-1725-X.
  • Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die: The Interface of Social Science, Public Policy, and Medical Ethics by Barry Rosenfeld PhD, 2004 ISBN 1-59147-102-8.
  • Forced Exit : The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder by Wesley J. Smith, 1997. ISBN 0-8129-2790-7.
  • "A View to a Kill" by Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online, December 14, 2005, retrieved December 14, 2005.
  • Appointment With Dr. Death by Michael Betzold



Friends start 'Free Dr. Jack' letter campaign

The Oakland Press (Oakland County, Michigan) Sunday, April 11, 2004

By TRACY WARD of The Oakland Press

On this day, they're at Marinelli's restaurant in Troy, talking over hamburgers and coffee, passing "Free Dr. Jack" bumper stickers up and down the long table.

"We've been quiet because we didn't want to interrupt the legal end of it," said Zorob "Zip" Kabodian, 78, a retired aircraft mechanic who lives in Rochester Hills. "And now we can't do any harm. We're going to let people know we care. Jack will know we care."

The group, which still meets weekly after all these years, has great memories of Kevorkian. The Pontiac neighborhood where they grew up, near Franklin and Harrison streets, was mixed with new immigrants. It was the 1930s and everybody, thanks to the Depression, was broke, but everybody was in the same boat.

"We didn't have bicycles," Sally Kabodian said. "I can remember a neighbor did, and the kids would get up early and line up at her house for a chance to ride it."

They were the children of Armenians who came to America after the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million people were killed by Ottoman Turks.

As children, most of them didn't speak English when they started at Wilson and Bagley Elementary schools - buildings that were torn down long ago.

Kids played "Kick-the-Can" in the street. They remember the time Jack Kevorkian tried to make a waterwheel in the creek at Pontiac's Dodge Park or worked on an electrical bicycle.

"I remember walking - six of us walking down the streets of Pontiac at night, talking about philosophy, life, everything," said Vanig Godoshian, 71, a retired communications engineer from Sylvan Lake. "Everybody looked up to Jack."

"He was so smart, so smart," said Sally Kabodian.

Other friends remember Kevorkian as warm-hearted but a loner.

Some group members are more zealous than others. The members - faithful Catholic or Armenian Orthodox who are proud, as many Armenians are, that their country was the first to adopt Christianity in 301 - even have different views on assisted suicide.

If he is released, would they want him involved in more assisted suicides, something Kevorkian has said he wouldn't do?

"Jack keeps his word," said one group member. "He would never disappoint his friends."

"I wouldn't want him to," said Zoe Dakesian, 81, whose late husband, Walter, grew up with Kevorkian in Pontiac.

Martin Krikorian, 78, a retired Oakland County mechanic, said he's willing to help.

"Well, he's Armenian," he said, giving a little shrug. "I believe in his work."

Kabodian said Kevorkian has paid his debt to society.

"He's paid his price. It's time for him to be released, to have a little peace and quiet in his later years," he said.

"He shouldn't have tried to be his own lawyer," said another friend, shaking his head.

"He's doing the right thing," said Nick Markarian, 73, of Warren. "If people are sick, why are they going to suffer? The patient asks him to save him so they don't suffer no more."

"There are worse crimes now," Zoe Dakesian said.

Godoshian said his friends asked Kevorkian not to push so hard, but he's hard-headed and once he makes up his mind, he's immovable.

The Kabodians said the group will mail letters to family and friends, to people on their Christmas lists, asking for support.

Zip Kabodian holds up an envelope. On it, he has sketched a jack-in-the-box with the words "Free Dr. Jack" written underneath.

"He puts that on every letter, every bill we send out," said his wife, with a smile.

"He's warm-hearted, compassionate and wants to help people," Kabodian said. "It's time for him to be released."


PHOTO CAPTION: Archie Hovsepian, 81, of Waterford Township (from left); John Kouzoujian, 77, of Troy; and Martin Krikorian, 78, of Troy (far right) ~K friends and supporters of Jack Kevorkian ~K meet at Marinelli's of Troy to discuss a campaign to free their old friend. -- The Daily Oakland Press / GARY MALERBA

Click here to read story: http://theoaklandpress.com/stories/041104/loc_20040411074.shtml


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Dr. Death Movie

'Dr. Death' coming to big screen By Tatiana Siegel

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter Friday, October 28, 2005

An unpublished biography of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the incarcerated proponent of physician-assisted suicide, is being turned into a movie by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple.

"You Don't Know Jack" will be based on the book of the same name, written by Kevorkian's assistant of 25 years, Neal Nicol, and the doctor's neighbor and lifelong friend, Harry Wylie. The project marks the first time the 77-year-old physician, nicknamed Dr. Death, has fully authorized anyone to tell his story.

"The film will examine the fascinating life of man who is a household name, yet no one knows his actual story," said the film's producer, Steve Jones. "It's not a film about euthanasia but instead a look at a passionate man who spent his entire life fighting for rights he believes that every human should have."

Kevorkian is serving the seventh year of a 15- to 25-year prison sentence.

Barbara Turner will write the script. Her credits include "Pollock," which garnered a best supporting actress Academy Award for Marcia Gay Harden. Kopple won her Oscars for "Harlan County, USA" and "American Dream."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051028/people_nm/kevorkian_dc_1

Film to tell story of suicide doctor

United Press International October 27, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A film adaptation is being made of the book "You Don't Know Jack," the story of Michigan suicide doctor, Jack Kevorkian.

Barbara Turner is adapting Hollywood's version of "Dr. Death," who ran afoul of the law by building a suicide machine to help terminally ill people end their own lives, the Hollywood Reporter said Thursday.

The drama is being directed by Barbara Kopple for Bee Holder Productions.

Bee Holder's Steve Jones owns the exclusive rights to the unpublished yet authorized book by Neal Nicol -- who assisted Kevorkian for 25 years -- and Kevorkian's lifelong friend, Harry Wylie.

Kevorkian, 77, was convicted of murder in 1999 and sentenced to 10-to-25 years in prison.

http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20051027-075707-6666r


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Parole board denies ailing Kevorkian

Associated Press 12-22-2005

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state parole board rejected a request to pardon assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian or commute his sentence, despite warnings that he is in grave condition.

The 77-year-old former doctor is serving a 10- to 25-year prison sentence for murder for giving a fatal injection of drugs in 1998 to a man with Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian is not eligible for parole until 2007.

His lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, warned last month that Kevorkian was in "dire shape" and might not live that long. Kevorkian suffers from high blood pressure, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis and Hepatitis C, the lawyer said.

But the parole board, in a 7-2 vote, recommended the governor deny the application, according to documents released Thursday.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm will follow the recommendation, as she has done with similar recommendations on Kevorkian in 2003 and 2004, spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.

"He did what was right for the people. They came to him. He didnt go around forcing people to let him kill them. But he does put a Bad name for the Armenians" --iveta

"I think the parole board is acting irresponsibly and outrageously," Morganroth said. "The doctor in the prison keeps telling us, 'What can I do to get him out? He shouldn't be in here.'"

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-12-22-kevorkian-denial_x.htm


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DEATH BECOMES HIM: KEVORKIAN'S ARTWORK ON DISPLAY AT ARMENIAN LIBRARY David Gordon

Daily News Tribune Oct 05, 2008 @ 10:47 PM MA

Dr. Jack Kevorkian speaks to a large crowd at the Armenian Library yesterday about his art exhibit of paintings, which he is showing across the country.

WATERTOWN -- The dying Jack Kevorkian is trying to get his point across.

The man known in the 20th century as Dr. Death, marked the opening of his painting exhibition "The Doctor is Out," at Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown by speaking largely about his run for Congress in his home state in Michigan.

Greeted like a rock star yesterday afternoon, the 80-year-old Kevorkian, who fought and went to jail in his crusade for euthanasia, brushed the standing ovations, the crowd and the encomia aside.

"There's too much praise for someone doing their duty," Kevorkian said. "Courage is knowing what's right and doing it."

Diagnosed with a terminal case of Hepatitis C, Kevorkian knows he has limited time to get his message across.

"It scares me. I'm afraid it curtails my life," he said. "Dying in prison is a vacuous death. It's meaningless."

Charged with second-degree murder in 1999, he was released from prison last year.

Kevorkian is waging a campaign to bring his philosophy to the people, by discussing his paintings and run for office.

But don't call his pieces art.

Art takes training, Kevorkian told an audience of upwards of 300 people, packing the museum's lobby.

"It really isn't art. Its main mission is conveying a philosophic point. An abstract point," he said. "I call it pictorial philosophy."

By all accounts, that philosophy is indelibly linked to Kevorkian's years of suicide assistance, but not in the way one might think.

Several of his paintings are grim, depicting strong images. The piece representing Kevorkian's statement on war features a decapitated man with Ares, the Greek god of war, over one shoulder and his own head on a plate in front of him, apple in mouth.

To depict death, Kevorkian painted a man screaming as he falls to a black pit full of ghosts, his fingers clutching to cliffsides with such ferocity as to have rent the flesh from their tips.

Simultaneously political and philosophical, Kevorkian's basic perspective is unified by one idea: A rejection of fear and a powerful individual freedom.

"We have relinquished our rights because we've been trained to think that way," Kevorkian said.

American politics is ruled by fear, he said, and American people, and people of the world, are taught to be afraid of death.

"I think it carries a message," Kevorkian said of his art, "which is all I wanted."

That message?

"When death is approaching naturally, nature prepares you for it. You actually welcome it," Kevorkian said. "We'll go to any length to avoid it. Screaming, terrified, we'll go to any lengths to avoid it. Because we're taught that. Remember religion says it's our greatest enemy? Can you imagine that?"

Kevorkian said he had to be taken to prison to get his message out, that the American judicial system refuses to give people the right to die as they would see fit, and they are infringing on many other rights of Americans.

He wants to educate people about the value of the Ninth Amendment of the Constitution, which says the Constitution cannot infringe upon people's freedoms.

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," it reads.

"That's where all the rights are for the people," Kevorkian said. " That's why it hasn't been used ... And that's one reason why I'm running: to educate the people more on the Constitutional right we have, of rights. We had it. We lost it. Can we get it back? Hard to say."

Kevorkian was trailed by documentary filmmakers, working on "Kevorkian," about his run for Congress he started after getting out of prison in 2007.

Producer Steve Jones said of Kevorkian, seemingly in awe, "he's fearless. Absolutely fearless."

Even if you don't agree with him, Jones said, you admire Kevorkian.

"No matter how controversial he is, he's so logical. It's very hard to refute him."

Nobody among the crowd tried to refute him. Perhaps the most famous Armenian American alive today, Kevorkian was greeted at the museum like a hero.

"He's among friends," Jones said. "He's one of their own."

Kevorkian, son of two immigrant survivors of the Armenian Genocide, turned to painting as a hobby, and produced 16 canvases over time. He donated all of them to the museum.

"He's a man of great integrity," said Brigham Moberly, who came from out of state to see Kevorkian, whom he admired for his political views. "He knows it's time for the revolution to begin."

Artist Katherine Keogh, who traveled with Moberly, said Kevorkian's art spoke to her.

"His artwork is amazingly poignant," she said. "He really, really strikes a chord with his paintings."


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References

  1. Kevorkian Speaks After His Release From Prison. By MONICA DAVEY. Published: June 4, 2007. New York Times
  2. Strutner, Suzy (January 11, 2011). "Right-to-die activist Dr. Jack Kevorkian will share his ideology of death and story of life during Royce Hall lecture". Daily Bruin. http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/2011/01/righttodie_activist_dr_jack_kevorkian_will_share_his_ideology_of_death_and_story_of_life_during_royc. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  3. UCLA ASA (January 15, 2011). "An Evening With Dr. Jack Kevorkian". Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=173120869384048. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  4. AAMSC (January 15, 2011). "AAMSC". aamsc.com. http://www.aamsc.com/. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  5. Aghajanian, Liana (January 25, 2011)."Jack Kevorkian Connects With Armenian Fans at Sold Out Show". Ianyan Magazine.



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