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'Doctor Death' Dies

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Dr. Jack Kevorkian, renowned advocate and practitioner of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, died on Friday. He was 83 years old. He was being treated for pneumonia and kidney problems when he died at a Detroit area hospital, according to sources.

Kevorkian, who spent years campaigning for the legalization of euthanasia, spent eight years in prison for second degree murder after personally administering a lethal injection rather than allow the patient to do it themself. He claimed to have helped more than 130 patients commit suicide between 1990 and 1998 using a combination of injections, gas, and his famous suicide machine, which he built from scraps for $30.

Born Murad Kevorkian, the son of Armenian immigrants in Pontiac, Michigan, Kevorkian gained the nickname "Dr. Death" in 1958 after conducting a study in which he photographed patients' eyes as they died (see timeline at freep.com).

Kevorkian constantly shared his views with the media throughout the '90s and in 1998 submitted a video of one of his patient's deaths to 60 Minutes (watch the segment below).

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"He was involved in this because he thought it was right, and whatever anyone wants to say about him, I think that's the truth," said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in today's Washington Post obituary. "He didn't do it for the money, he didn't do it for the publicity, he wasn't living a luxurious life - he wanted change."

"What he did is like veterinary medicine," Dr. John Finn, medical director of the Hospice of Southeastern Michigan in suburban Detroit, told the LA Times in June 1990. "When you take your pet to the vet, he puts the pet to sleep. I think human beings are more complicated than that. I think he should have his license revoked."

Kevorkian had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer, which may have been caused by Hepatitis C. Kevorkian contracted Hepatitis C as a result of lab experiments he did as a pathologist in 1960, his longtime assistant Neal Nicol told the Detroit Free Press.

Nicol said he hopes Kevorkian is remembered "for his work, his courage and his willingness" to help patients. He took pride in helping patients he thought were not helped by doctors and hospitals, particularly alleviating their pain.

Kevorkian ran for Congress in 2008 and in 2010 was portrayed by Al Pacino in the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning HBO biopic "You Don't Know Jack."60 Minutes: Kevorkian (Nov 22, 1998)