Monday, March 21, 2005

The Terri Schiavo Federal Case - Where are you now, Dr Kevorkian? SILENCED.

We can sure use an opinion now, an OP-ED, ANYTHING. But not a word about or from the doctor in the media. Not a peep from left or right politicians, either mentioning Jack Kevorkian and his work. Such a shame, that.--Kilroy2005

The Oakland Press, Oakland, Michigan

The last known interview of Jack Kervorkian, nearly a year old now.

Dr. K: I expect to die in prison

Sunday, April 11, 2004 E-mail Print

He's nearly 76 years old now, a man who tried to change the world, only to be forced to watch from behind bars as the cause he championed plods forward without him.
And that's where Jack Kevorkian believes he'll die - in prison.

Dr. K: I expect to die in prison

Assisted-suicide advocate says he has been silenced

Of The Daily Oakland Press

Editor's note: The Daily Oakland Press, the first to write about Jack Kevorkian and his new "suicide machine" in October 1989, interviewed Kevorkian this week by telephone from the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. The interview, from the Southfield office of Kevorkian's attorney, Mayer Morganroth, is Kevorkian's first conversation with the media since he was sent to prison five years ago April 13.

He's nearly 76 years old now, a man who tried to change the world, only to be forced to watch from behind bars as the cause he championed plods forward without him.

Jack Kevorkian is handcuffed by an Oakland County Sheriff's deputy after being sentenced following his 1999 murder trial in Pontiac. Kevorkian is serving 10-25 years for the videotaped assisted-suicide death of Thomas Youk of Waterford Township.

And that's where Jack Kevorkian believes he'll die - in prison.

"There's no doubt I expect to die in prison," said Kevorkian, talking from a pay phone outside his prison cell at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. "All the big powers they've silenced me. ... So much for free speech and choice on this fundamental human right."

Talking for the first time since he was sent to prison in 1999, Kevorkian told The Daily Oakland Press about prison life, the torturous boredom and his fellow inmates. He spoke about why there has been no hue and cry for his release. Not from the public. Not from the Hemlock Society. Not even from the families of those he helped to die.

If he feels forsaken by the people he tried to help, Kevorkian won't acknowledge it - even as he sits alone behind steel bars and concrete walls, imprisoned by the razor-topped wire fence outside.

"No, I don't feel abandoned; I knew what I was doing," he said, in the 15-minute telephone interview. "Look, it's OK. They're frightened. They won't do anything. I knew that. I didn't do this for other people; I did this for me. I fought for this right for me - does that sound selfish?

The latest photo of Kevorkian is a 2002 prison mug shot. -

"The American people are sheep. They're comfortable, rich, working. It's like the Romans, they're happy with bread and their spectator sports. The Super Bowl means more to them than any right."

All told, it is estimated Kevorkian, tagged "Dr. Death" by the media, helped more than 130 people to their deaths during the 1990s. In a volatile, sometimes circuslike atmosphere, he was arrested and acquitted and arrested again.

His critics charged he was ghoulish, fascinated with death. Admirers lauded his bravery.
But those from both sides agree the odd, thin-faced retired Royal Oak pathologist, alongside his former attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, nearly single-handedly forced the nation to confront the issue of doctor-assisted suicide and the suffering endured by terminal patients.

In the end, it was the 1998 CBS "60 Minutes" broadcast of the death of Lou Gehrig's disease patient Thomas Youk that brought Kevorkian's work to an end. He was sentenced in 1999 to 10-25 years on second-degree murder charges.

Today, prisoner No. 284797, who wears a navy blue jumpsuit with an orange stripe, is living in a 7-by-11-foot cell with a radio, his books and crosswords. Never married, with no children, Kevorkian will be eligible for parole in 2007 when he is 79 years old.

Kevorkian's attorney Mayer Morganroth, a $600-an-hour attorney who befriended Kevorkian and represents him for less money because he believes in what Kevorkian advocated, is hoping the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will review Kevorkian's conviction. Unlike Fieger, Morganroth shut down the media, though he said Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace still call, hoping for on-camera interviews with Kevorkian.

Morganroth said those early, sometimes vitriolic attacks against judges and political figures hurt his client, but that Kevorkian is a different person now.
But the courts have been immovable.

"In my 50 years of practice, I've never seen anything like this," Morganroth said, shaking his head. "Any other client would be out."

"Look at the forces against me," Kevorkian said, listing the government, the American Medical Association, pharmaceutical companies and religion. "Is there anything more powerful than these four?"

"They don't want me out," he added a few minutes later. "They're afraid I'll cause trouble if I get out."

Kevorkian said that despite the inherent dangers of prison life, he feels safe in his minimum-security setting. In fact, guards and inmates alike are more likely to ask for his autograph than anything else, his attorney said.

What about Kevorkian's cellmate, who finds himself sharing a cell with a man who is likely the most notorious in Michigan's corrections system?

Kevorkian is evasive when asked about why his fellow prisoner is serving time, except to say: "I think he's in here for a rather long time. ... He's fairly intelligent and quiet. I've had worse since I've been in here."

State corrections officials said Kevorkian's cellmate is serving 15-30 years for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

And the rest of his fellow inmates? Has he found friends there among burglars, violent assault convicts and drug dealers?

"What are friends?" Kevorkian said. "Some people are nice. Some people aren't. There are some I'm fairly close with ... we talk."

If he has any complaints, it's the food, which is dismal, with meals of tasteless pizza and inexpensive meats, said Kevorkian, famously quirky about what he eats.

"Once in a while they give us real beef, real turkey," he said.

The worst part about prison?

"It's the boredom that kills you," he said.

"You read until you're tired of that. You do crossword puzzles until you're tired of that. This is torture. This is mental torture."

From prison, and with the help of his biggest supporter - Ruth Holmes, a well-respected Bloomfield Hills jury consultant and handwriting examiner - Kevorkian published a book this year, "glimmerIQs" - a collection of Kevorkian's artwork, cartoons, original music, limericks and even a diet plan. (, $26)

Ruth Holmes continues to lead efforts to make sure Jack Kevorkian9s work isn't forgotten.

Between projects, he listens to classical music and follows the news in the outside world. He's angered by the U.S. war in Iraq.

Kevorkian is not assigned a prison job because inmates over age 60 don't have to work. He doesn't want one, saying, "I'd find it demeaning to be cleaning toilets."

As a level-two minimum security prisoner, he can get "yard" time outside if prisoners aren't mustered for "count" or locked down in their cells.

Meanwhile, he waits.

Holmes can't understand the public apathy about someone she considers so heroic.

"When Dr. Kevorkian stood up, people sat down," Holmes said. "There's just no outrage. We (Americans) are just so numb."

Even groups like the Hemlock Society of Michigan, now called End-of-Life Choices, have been silent on Kevorkian's prison time.

"Has it been five years?" said Judy Coats, president of the 1,000-member group here in Michigan.

Coats said the Hemlock Society never officially took a position on Kevorkian.
Many members "backed off because Kevorkian was out of the mainstream. ... He didn't epitomize the family doctor," she said.

Still, she credits him with bringing right-to-die issues to the public, saying, "People in medical schools are now teaching more about end-of-life care and pain management."
While right-to-die issues have stalled in Michigan, other states are considering laws similar to Oregon's, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal.

"It's been very successful," Coats said. "There's been no slippery slope, no dramatic increase.

About 30 people a year use the law. It's a very, very small percentage."
Personally, Coats said, she wants to see Kevorkian released. "I knew some of the people he helped. They really needed him."

In the meantime, his friends are worried about Kevorkian, who has high blood pressure and a hernia and, according to published reports, lingering effects of hepatitis.

When asked if he's doing OK, Kevorkian laughs. "No!" he said. "People ask me that all the time, and I always say, 'No! No!' "

He limits visitors. He doesn't like the required strip searches and said there are too many "repeated" conversations during visitations. Instead, he calls friends and his attorney regularly but telephones Holmes - who has a suitcase full of Kevorkian's street clothes waiting for the day he is released - every single day.

Kevorkian, who has promised in affidavits that he will not assist in a suicide if he is ever released from prison, said in the interview that he stands by that promise.

He'd like to move overseas, perhaps, to another country that has adopted thinking closer to his own. He said he'd fight through legal means for assisted suicide and other causes, like organ donations from capital punishment prisoners.

In an "Open Letter to Michigan Legislators," released earlier this month, Kevorkian advocated lifting Michigan's 158-year ban on capital punishment to permit the condemned to undergo medical experimentation before death.

"Five to six thousand people die every year waiting for organs, but nobody cares," he said.
He appreciates support he does receive but is fatalistic.

"There is nothing anyone can do anyway," he said. "The public has no power. The government knows I'm not a criminal. The parole board knows I'm not a criminal. The judge knows I'm not a criminal."

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca disagrees.
"Absolutely it was murder," Gorcyca said, adding Kevorkian should be treated no differently, despite his age.

He opposes any effort to have Kevorkian's sentence commuted by the governor but said he will not oppose Kevorkian's parole in 2007.

"He flouted the law and baited, no, begged me, on national TV to prosecute him," Gorcyca said.
"It wasn't like we were looking for an opportunity to charge him. Now he has to suffer the penalty."

As for Kevorkian's promise not to be involved in any other assisted suicides? Gorcyca said he remembers when bodies - notes pinned to their clothing - were being dropped off willy-nilly at area hospitals. He said Kevorkian continually violated restraining orders and conditions of bond.

"Why am I to believe him now, because he wants to get out of jail? He's not trustworthy."
On a personal level, he has little empathy.

"It's tough to sympathize with somebody who put a finger in your face and castigated me and the office and called us all kinds of things," Gorcyca said. "He was really in-your-face. He made it a personal attack."

Kevorkian has few regrets. He said he knew he was taking a risk but wanted to force the issue of assisted suicide. Sometimes, yeah, he was his own worst enemy.
Was it worth it? Was it worth going to prison? Did he fail in his crusade?

"I gambled and I lost," Kevorkian said of his strategies, but he doesn't see his work as a failure.

"I failed in securing my options for this choice for myself," Kevorkian said. "But I succeeded in verifying the Dark Age is still with us. When history looks back, it will prove what I'll die knowing."

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