Friday, June 03, 2011

The Life and Deaths of Jack Kevorkian

Kevorkian's first patient — or victim, depending on your point of view — was Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old Portland, Ore., housewife who allowed herself to be hooked up to one of Kevorkian's suicide machines on June 4, 1990. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease the year before and had contacted Kevorkian after an experimental drug treatment she received at the University of Washington was unsuccessful. She had first seen him on a talk show and read about him in a magazine.


Adkins, however, was not debilitated by her illness. Her personal physician, Dr. Murray Raskind, told TIME that she had told him that she and her husband were members of the Hemlock Society, a right-to-die organization, and that she had limited patience for Alzheimer's treatment. "When she entered the trial, she made it clear that this was a last chance. If the progress of the disease wasn't halted, then she didn't want to continue living." And then he got a call from Kevorkian. Raskind told TIME he vigorously tried to dissuade Kevorkian from taking her case. "My reasons were that she was in good spirits and seemed to be getting a lot of satisfaction from life. I was perplexed, but I didn't take [the call] as seriously as I should have. I consulted legal and medical colleagues. Then I called her family. Mrs. Adkins wasn't there. She was out playing tennis. I left a phone number for her, but she never returned my call ... When I heard the news, I was disappointed. I felt she had several years of good-quality life in front of her." Raskind testified against Kevorkian in an unsuccessful attempt to convict the Michigan doctor in Adkins' death.



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