The name Dr. Jack Kevorkian will once again be in headlines as the now 79-year- old doctor known for his famous killing machine is due to be release from prison on June 1, having served eight years of a 10-25 year sentence in the death of a Michigan man. His decade long practice of executing physician suicides has sparked controversy and criticism throughout the country over the years. Now, only Oregon allows for legal execution of the procedure, helping terminally ill patients end their lives through either a lethal injection or gassing by carbon monoxide.

From the time he began using his self-invented machine to aid in his practice, doctors have been questioning just how to help their dying patients using pain medication without being considered the next Dr. Kevorkian. Currently, about 30 people a year ask for a deadly dose of drugs to help them end their lives. Most of them are at least in their 70’s, and of the 46 who requested these drugs last year had cancer, according to the state of Oregon.

No matter what a person’s position is on euthanasia, they should be able to understand the reasons behind a person’s desire to end their suffering. What makes Kevorkian so controversial is his methods in undertaking the procedure. Some of his patients were left in hospital emergency rooms, coroner’s offices, or even hotel rooms after their deaths, demonstrating his disregard for the respect of the patients and their families. He first began looking for willing patients to undergo his experiment in 1987. He placed ads in newspaper classifieds and handing out business cards.

He was very particular about who would become his first patient, however. One woman who approached him was a patient with multiple sclerosis was turned down as his first pick because her disease wouldn’t give him the exposure and media coverage that he needed to kick start his career. This shows how his purpose was more for fame than helping others. However, this has nothing to do with whether or not his actions were right or wrong. And too, she was promised to be the second person to die by his method, though she was taken away by her family once they learned of her intentions.

Kevorkian’s machine was tested for the first time at a campsite near Detroit on June 4, 1990. The lucky first patient turned out to be a 54-year-old woman from Oregon who was found in the back of his Volkswagon van, and Kevorkian was covered in her blood. Though it was his first try, the method in which her death was undertaken showed his lack of experience. In fact, Kevorkian’s expertise and experience is rooted in pathology, or the study of dead bodies and body parts. He has had no clinical experiencee with live patients apart from a residency and military service in the 1950’s. He is not trained in psychological studies, such as diagnosing depression. In fact, he has stated that he considers healthy but suicidal people as reasonable candidates for his procedure. Regarding those who are ill and dying, terminally ill is defined as a person who has six months or less to live, though most of his patients did not fit into this category. Children and the mentally ill who are not capable of making life ending decisions were probable candidates as well.

All in all, 27 people died by Jack Kevorkian’s machines from June 1990-January 1996, prompting his arrest and immortalizing his name in relation to a cold-hearted killer. His release may cause the assisted suicide debate to explode once again. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what Kevorkian plans to do with his remaining years.

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