Dr. Jack Kevorkian Dies At 83

Originally published on June 6, 2011 3:51 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Don Gonyea is NPR's political correspondent, but for many years he was based in Detroit, and that's where he first met and interviewed Jack Kevorkian. Don Gonyea, good morning.

DON GONYEA: Good morning.

LOUISE KELLY: So tell me about - do you remember the very first time you met Dr. Kevorkian?

GONYEA: She sought him out. He helped her to die in a state park in Michigan. I talked to him early that morning, after getting the word. And let's just hear a little bit when I asked him about what he had done and the controversy that it stirred up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GONYEA: I don't crave publicity, you know. I just want to be able to work. Leave me alone. Let me do 10, 20 cases, 100 cases. Let me establish the thing. That's all I want. But you can't do it, I guess, you know. Emotionalism causes all this.

GONYEA: And as you said, he did ultimately admit to 130, but none of us has an exact count. We don't know if there were others.

LOUISE KELLY: Those 130 now - of those assisted suicides, he was never actually convicted of assisting in a suicide.

GONYEA: Again, not because he hadn't admitted violating the law, but because they would play the videotape that he would make, kind of the exit interview that he would do with this patient explaining their excruciating pain or how Lou Gehrig's disease was affecting their life or how the bone cancer was making it impossible for them to have any quality of life. He was always acquitted. He in effect had license to continue to do as many assisted suicides as he wanted.

LOUISE KELLY: He did finally go to jail. He was convicted, as we said, of second degree murder. What happened?

GONYEA: He was interviewing a patient and in the middle of the interview, which he videotaped, he said why don't you just have me do the injection. The patient said fine. He videotaped himself doing the injection. He sent the tape to "60 Minutes." It says he wasn't satisfied with being able to carry out this practice that he'd started. He wanted to push the limits further. He found out what the jury's limits were. He was convicted of second degree murder.

LOUISE KELLY: And just quickly, you covered all his trials. What do you think his legacy will be?

GONYEA: It's interesting because he certainly put this issue on the map in a very big way. But his critics also say he put a very scary face on it. And I think those two things compete.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay. Don, thanks so much.

GONYEA: Pleasure.

LOUISE KELLY: That's NPR's Don Gonyea talking about Jack Kevorkian, who died today, age 83. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.