ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Dr. Jack Kevorkian passed away at the age of 83 early Friday morning at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Longtime lawyer and friend Mayer Morganroth told Local 4 that Kevorkian died of pulmonary thrombosis around 2:30 a.m.
Morganroth said he and Kevorkian's niece were in the hospital room during the final hours. He also said Kevorkian requested that his favorite classical music by Johan Sebastian Bach be played before he died.
Morganroth said Kevorkian was "totally in peace, not in pain, and went peacefully and suddenly."
The retired pathologist had been hospitalized for the past few weeks with pneumonia and kidney problems.
Morganroth said a private service for about a half-dozen people is planned at an area funeral home and cemetery.
Kevorkian was released from a Michigan prison in 2007 after serving eight years for second-degree murder. He claims to have assisted in at least 130 suicides.
He insisted suicide with the help of a medical professional was a civil right.
His gaunt, hollow-cheeked appearance gave him a ghoulish, almost cadaverous look and helped earn him the nickname "Dr. Death." But Kevorkian likened himself to Martin Luther King and Gandhi and called physicians who didn't support him "hypocritic oafs."
"Somebody has to do something for suffering humanity," he once said. "I put myself in my patients' place. This is something I would want."
Kevorkian jabbed his finger in the air as he publicly mocked politicians and religious leaders. He was a magnet for the news media, once talking to reporters with his head and wrists restrained in a stock reminiscent of the Medieval era.
His efforts put the medical establishment in knots: Here was a doctor admitting he had helped people die and urging others in the profession to do the same.
Despite Kevorkian's relentless efforts, few states made physician-assisted suicide legal. Laws took effect in Oregon in 1997 and Washington state in 2009, and a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized the practice in that state.
Those who sought Kevorkian's help typically suffered from cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis or paralysis. He catapulted into the public eye in 1990 when he used his machine to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer's patient. He typically would leave the bodies at emergency rooms.
For much of the decade, he escaped legal efforts to stop him. His first four trials, all on assisted-suicide charges, resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. Murder charges in Kevorkian's first cases were thrown out because Michigan had no law against assisted suicide. The Legislature wrote one in response. He also was stripped of his medical license.
Devotees filled courtrooms wearing "I Back Jack" buttons. Critics questioned his headline-grabbing methods, which were aided by his flamboyant attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, until the two parted ways before the 1999 trial in which he was sentenced to prison.
"The issue's got to be raised to the level where it is finally decided," Kevorkian said during a broadcast of CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired the videotaped death of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man with Lou Gehrig's disease.
He challenged prosecutors to charge him again, and they obliged with second-degree murder charges.
Kevorkian acted as his own lawyer. In his closing argument, he said some acts "by sheer common sense are not crimes." "Just look at me," he told jurors. "Honestly now, do you see a criminal? Do you see a murderer?"
Kevorkian's ultimate goal was to establish "obitoriums" where people would go to die. Doctors there could harvest organs and perform medical experiments during the suicide process. Such experiments would be "entirely ethical spinoffs" of suicide, he wrote in his 1991 book "Prescription: Medicide -- The Goodness of Planned Death."
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