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Dr. Jack Kevorkian sentenced to prison; appeal denied

by Derek Humphry
Updated 08 April 2006

Dr. Jack Kevorkian

On April 13, 1999 retired pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced in Michigan, USA, to two terms of imprisonment for helping a man suffering from A.L.S. to die. For the 2nd degree murder of Thomas Youk he received a sentence of 10-25 years and for using a 'controlled substance' (lethal drug) he was given 3-7 years jail, the sentences to run concurrently.

A month earlier a jury had convicted him on both counts. The 70-year-old doctor, who is currently (April 20) in prison, has said he will appeal to higher courts.

Dr. Kevorkian The case achieved enormous notoriety, not only for Dr. Kevorkian's publicly acknowledging that he had already helped at least 130 other people to die by assisted suicide, but Mr.Youk's death in September 1998 was by direct injection (voluntary euthanasia). When the law enforcement authorities in Michigan did not move to charge Kevorkian with killing Mr.Youk, he took a tape of the incident to CBS Television, which aired it in the widely watched news program '60 Minutes'. On the program Kevorkian challenged prosecutors to act: three days later Kevorkian was charged with the offences.

The legal case against Kevorkian was, of course, water-tight because his video clearly demonstrated the process of injection. There was no question but that he was guilty in the eyes of the law. The law does not accept that a person can ask to be killed - as Tom Youk clearly did. It is still 'murder' legally. So, in an attempt to persuade the jury that his action had not been 'murder' but a justifiable act of mercy, Kevorkian defended himself. He sought 'jury nullification' on the grounds of humanity— something a lawyer may not do.

Kevorkian was further hampered by the judge's ruling that he could not call the wife and brother of Tom Youk to confirm Tom's suffering and that the lethal injection was agreed by all three. (This aspect of the trial is likely to be one of the grounds for appeal).

On three previous occasions when charged with 'assisted suicide' the juries refused to convict Kevorkian against the weight of evidence. But that did not happen this time. Soon after he started publicly helping people to die in 1990, Kevorkian was stripped of his licenses to practice medicine in both Michigan and California.

As of April 2006 (serving a 10-25 year sentence for 2nd degree murder)

Previous Post by Derek Humphry

With his appeal rejected), Dr. Kevorkian has been moved again within the prison system. He has NO email address nor incoming telephone number.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Prisoner #284797
Lakeland Correctional Facility
141 First Street
Coldwater, MI 49036

Michigan State Corrections web page: Jack Kevorkian

Although it has had some reservations about a few cases in which Dr. Kevorkian has aided in a suicide, the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO) has fundamentally supported Kevorkian. The Hemlock Society USA has also given broad support to him.

Derek Humphry, ERGO president, who founded the Hemlock Society in 1980, said about the conviction:

"The severity of the sentence on Kevorkian will drive the practice of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide even further underground. It will not stop it. Kevorkian is by no means the only doctor who helps people die - just the one who does so and also openly campaigns for societal acceptance of the practice.

"Kevorkian's martyrdom - self-imposed as it is -- will speed up the day when voluntary euthanasia for the dying is removed from the legal classification of 'murder' and recognized as a justifiable act of compassion."

Read a list of the first 120 people whom Dr.Kevorkian helped to die.