Dr. Kevorkian–Dead, But Not By Suicide

Four days ago Dr. Kevorkian (AKA Dr. Death) died and I’ve read a couple of articles about him. In yesterday’s print edition of the NY Times is this opinion, and I am linking to it because it coincides a bit with how I feel about this.

One of the things I consider part of my job description is suicide prevention. So Dr. Kevorkian’s activism for assisted suicide kind of annoys me. From everything I’ve read, there is a lot of controversy about how he proceeded to do his work. Lack of full psychiatric screenings to assess for depression or other treatable mental illnesses, significant number of patients without terminal illnesses, a few patients without any physical problems whatsoever at autopsy, and death for some patients within 24 hours of meeting with with Dr. Kevorkian for a consultation. There’s also reports of Dr. Kevorkian being interested in the very scientific process of vivisection, which is basically doing an autopsy while someone is alive. Finally, Dr. Kevorkian was not an internist, or oncologist, or psychiatrist. He was a pathologist! He practiced an area of medicine that has the least patient care. In fact, although pathologists are physicians, they really practice more like scientists–in a lab.

It’s all a little frightening, what he claimed he did, which was assist over 130 patients in suicide with a machine that he created to inject the medications. I also believe in our laws and government, and regulating such issues which are truly a matter of life and death. I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on this controversial topic.

Explore posts in the same categories: Forensic Psychiatry, Psychiatry in the Media

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3 Comments on “Dr. Kevorkian–Dead, But Not By Suicide”

  1. Y Says:

    I am not very familiar with Dr. Kevorkian, and it certainly sounds like he did a lot of things that can be considered unethical at best, criminal at worst, but I do think that assisted suicide, in some cases (probably a very, very small percentage) doesn’t necessarily have to be either. You raise a very interesting question, and I enjoyed reading your entry.

  2. Marge Says:

    Dr. G, Thank you so much for getting me ahead! Your post has sparked some interesting discussions during our water fountain break time at our doctor’s office. Everyone was not aware of Dr. Kevorkian’s lack of psychiatric evaluations, and the minimal amount of time he spent with patients. Thanks so much for sharing your insights, and we are eagerly awaiting your next post!

  3. Eduardo Says:

    Thank you for sharing Dr. G. This was very inciteful, and now I want to read more opinions on assisted suicide. I want to know if you or any of your readers think there is an instance when assisted suicide would be necessary or beneficial, and if so what screening criteria do you think would be required? I have been thinking about this issue following the painful death of my very very dear aunt. God Bless Her.

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