Intended for healthcare professionals


Jack Kevorkian

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 29 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d4100
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

Former pathologist and controversial assisted suicide activist

The world could not agree who Jack Kevorkian was during his lifetime, nor after his death.

To his supporters, Kevorkian was a humane hero who courageously fought for the rights of suffering people to fulfil their death wishes. Neal Nicol, who was Kevorkian’s friend for half a century and helped in many of Kevorkian’s more than 130 assisted suicides, said that Kevorkian “was the most compassionate individual I have ever met.” Nicol added: “I worked closely in the medical field for 54 years or so, met many doctors, worked with and for many. Dr Kevorkian had a bedside manner that was the nicest I was ever exposed to. The patients loved him.”

But in the eyes of the law, Kevorkian was a murderer. He was convicted in 1999 for giving a lethal injection to a sick man who had asked Kevorkian to help him die. The judge, who sentenced Kevorkian to prison, told him: “You’ve defied your own profession, the medical profession.”

The Catholic church saw Kevorkian as a sinner. Hours after he died, the Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement saying, “May God have mercy on his soul and on …

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