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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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He engaged in frequent arguments with his teachers at school, sometimes humiliating them when they couldn't keep up with his sharp debate skills.
While his jabs at teachers earned admiration from his classmates, learning came so effortlessly to Jack that it often alienated him from his peers. Kevorkian was promoted to Eastern Junior High School when he was in the sixth grade,
and by the time he was in high school he had taught himself German and Japanese. Classmates soon labeled him as an eccentric bookworm, and Kevorkian had trouble making friends as a result. He also gave up the idea of romantic relationships, believing them to be an uneccessary diversion from his studies. In 1945, when Kevorkian was only 17, he graduated with honors from Pontiac High School.
Accepted into the University of Michigan College of Engineering, Kevorkian had aims to become a civil engineer. Halfway through his freshman year, however, he became bored with his studies and began focusing on botany and biology. By midyear, he had set his sights on medical school, often taking 20 credit hours in a semester in order to meet the 90-hour medical school requirement. He graduated in medicine at the University of Michigan in 1952, and began a specialty in pathology soon after. In 1953, however, the Korean War abruptly halted Kevorkian's career. He served 15 months as an Army medical officer in Korea, then finished his service in Colorado.
While serving his residency at the University of Michigan hospital in the 1950s, Kevorkian became fascinated by death and the act of dying. He made regular visits to terminally ill patients, photographing their eyes in an attempt to pinpoint the exact moment of death. Kevorkian believed that doctors could use the information to distinguish death from fainting, shock or coma in order to learn when resuscitation was useless. "But really, my number one reason was because it was interesting," Kevorkian told reporters later. "And my second reason was because it was a taboo subject."
Not one to avoid distasteful ideas, Kevorkian again caused a stir with colleagues by proposing that death-row prison inmates be used as the subjects of medical experiments while they were still alive. Inspired by research that described medical experiments the ancient Greeks conducted on Egyptian criminals, Kevorkian formulated the idea that similar modern experiments could not only save valuable research dollars, but also provide a glimpse into the anatomy of the criminal mind. In 1958, he advocated his view in a paper presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In a method he called "terminal human experimentation", he argued that condemned convicts could provide a service to humanity before their execution by volunteering for "painless" medical experiments that would begin while they were conscious, but would end in fatality. For his unorthodox experiments and strange proposals, Jack Kevorkian's peers gave him the nickname "Dr. Death."
Kevorkian's controversial views earned him minor media attention which ultimately resulted in his ejection from the University of Michigan Medical Center.
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