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Jack Kevorkian was a U.S.-based physician who assisted in patient suicides, sparking increased talk on hospice care and "right to die" legislative action.
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Born in Pontiac, Michigan, on May 26, 1928, Jack Kevorkian became a pathologist who assisted people suffering from acute medical conditions in ending their lives. After years of conflict with the court system over the legality of his actions, he spent eight years in prison after a 1999 conviction. Kevorkian's actions spurred national debate on the ethics of euthanasia and hospice care. He died in Royal Oak, Michigan, on June 3, 2011.
"My parents sacrificed a great deal so that we children would be spared undue privation and misery. There was always enough to eat."
"Dying is not a crime."
Jack Kevorkian was born Murad Kevorkian on May 26, 1928, in Pontiac, Michigan, the second of three children born to Armenian immigrants Levon and Satenig Kevorkian. Kevorkian's parents were refugees who escaped the Armemian massacres that occurred shortly after World War I. Levon was smuggled out of Turkey by missionaries in 1912 and made his way to Pontiac, Michigan, where he found work at an automobile foundry.
Satenig fled the Armenian death march, finding refuge with relatives in Paris, and eventually reuniting with her brother in Pontiac. Levon and Satenig met through the Armenian community in their city, where they married and began their family. The couple welcomed a daughter, Margaret, in 1926, followed by son Murad -- who later earned the nickname "Jack" by American friends and teachers -- and, finally, third child Flora.
After Levon lost his job at the foundry in the early 1930s, he began making a sizeable living as the owner of his own excavating company -- a difficult feat in Depression-era America. While other families suffered financially, the Kevorkians began living a more comfortable life in a bucolic, multi-cultural suburb in Pontiac. "My parents sacrificed a great deal so that we children would be spared undue privation and misery," Kevorkian later wrote. "There was always enough to eat."
Levon and Satenig were strict and religious parents, who worked hard to make sure their children were obedient Christians. Jack, however, had trouble reconciling what he believed were conflicting religious ideas. His family regularly attended church, and Jack often railed against the idea of miracles and an all-knowing God in his weekly Sunday school class. If there were a God who could make his son walk on water, Kevorkian insisted, he would also have been able to prevent the Turkish slaughter of his entire extended family. Jack debated the idea of God's existence every week until he realized he would not find an acceptable explanation to his questions, and stopped attending church entirely by the age of 12.
The children were also encouraged to perform well in school, and all three demonstrated high academic intelligence -- as the only boy, however, Jack became the focus of Levon and Satenig's high expectations. Jack rose to the occasion easily; even as a young boy, Kevorkian was a voracious reader and academic who loved the arts, including drawing, painting and piano. But along with Jack's academic prowess came a highly critical mind, and he rarely accepted ideas at face value.
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