(Reuters) - Here are five facts about Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who became internationally known as “Dr. Death” while helping people kill themselves as he campaigned for legal assisted suicide.
Kevorkian was scheduled to be released on Friday from a Michigan prison after serving eight years for a second-degree murder conviction.
* He was charged with first-degree murder after his first known assisted suicide, 54-year-old Janet Adkins, on June 4, 1990. Adkins, a middle-aged woman like most of his clients, died in the back of his rusty Volkswagen van after using Kevorkian’s suicide machine. The charges were later dismissed.
* Kevorkian built that suicide machine, the “Mercitron,” for $30. It consisted of bottles, chemicals and tubing to inject deadly drugs. He later used a mask attached to a carbon monoxide supply. Both systems let patients trigger their own deaths, avoiding the risk Kevorkian would be convicted of murder.
* After four failed prosecutions, Michigan authorities sent Kevorkian to prison for 10 to 25 years in 1999 for second-degree murder after he videotaped himself giving a lethal cocktail of chemicals to Thomas Youk, who had the debilitating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The tape was aired on national television.
* Well-read and known for using a wide range of quotations when arguing in court, Kevorkian taught himself Japanese and German while in high school during World War Two. He also paints and plays the flute, naming his debut album “A Very Still Life: The Kevorkian Suite.”
* Although he appealed to leave prison early because of poor health, and said he had no long-range plans because he was so ill, Kevorkian said he did not consider himself a candidate for assisted suicide. He told the Detroit News: “No, remember I did not advocate assisted suicide, I only advocated that a person should have the right to have an option if he or she, in sound mind, needed and desired it while in irremedial pain and suffering and terminal.”