he University of Wisconsin Press
Biography / Health & Medicine / Philosophy & Ethics / Current Affairs
Between the Dying and the Dead
Dr. Jack Kevorkian's Life and the Battle to Legalize Euthanasia
Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie
The authorized biography of doctor-assisted suicide's leading advocate
Dr. Jack Kevorkian—the enigmatic physician dubbed "Dr. Death"—has for years declined public interviews about his life and the events that led him to be a vehement advocate of doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But here, finally, is his own life story, as told to Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie.
Dr. Kevorkian gained international notoriety in the 1990s for his passionate advocacy of choice for terminal patients, who have won the right to decide the time, place, and method of their own death in several western countries. In 1998, he assisted Thomas Youk, a terminally ill patient suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, with a lethal injection that was broadcast on CBS's 60 Minutes. Immediately thereafter, Kevorkian was arrested, charged with second-degree murder, tried, and sentenced to 1025 years in Michigan's maximum-security prison system.
Today, Dr. Kevorkian is in his late seventies and in failing health himself. He shares an eight-by-twelve-foot cell with another inmate in the Thumb Correctional Facility at Lapeer, Michigan. The unique story Prisoner Number 284797 shares far exceeds the battle to legalize euthanasia and end human suffering for terminal patients. "Personal choice is really what it is all about. Quality of life, as opposed to maintaining existence"—Kevorkian to Vanity Fair, 1994.
"Any American who has watched this trial and this sentencing should be outraged. I don't believe that Dr. Kevorkian is a criminal, and I don't believe he should be put in prison."—Thomas Youk's brother, Terry, Detroit Free Press
"The authors combine clear affection for Kevorkian and advocacy for his cause with a willingness to point out character flaws and some of the poor choices he has made."Library Journal
"Am I a criminal? The world knows I'm not a criminal. What are they trying to put me in jail for?"Dr. Kevorkian to Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, 1996
"He's a decent and compassionate man who tried to help people get out of the suffering of their lives."Mike Wallace, 1998
"Humanity and compassion are on trial. You will be deciding one of the great issues in the struggle for human rights. . . . His intent is never to kill someone, but only to reduce suffering. That is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. that is the man who stands charged before you. You will decide how much suffering all of us must endure before we go into that good nightsome of us, not so gently."Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's attorney at a 1994 trial
"The efforts of Dr. Kevorkian to confront, challenge, and correct social injustice truly make a difference in improving the quality of life . . . Throughout his career. Dr. Keorkian has been a selfless believer in death with dignity and has sacrificed his medical license and now his own freedom toward that cause."Alan Gleitsman, presenting Citizen Activist Award to Dr. Kevorkian, in absentia
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Copublished with Vision Press, UK
Neal Nicol has been a friend and coworker of Dr. Kevorkian since 1961. He was a willing guinea pig in the doctor's research in cadaver blood transfusion and chromium 51 cell survival studies. His medical training as a corpsman and laboratory technician enabled him to assist Dr. Kevorkian on many occasions, while his laboratory supply company often provided materials necessary for Dr. Kevorkian's efforts. Nicol regularly visits Dr. Kevorkian in prison and continues to be a steadfast supporter of the right to die.
Harry Wylie is a longtime friend and confidant of Dr. Kevorkian. Wylie and his wife, Arlene, were Dr. Kevorkian's next-door neighbors and are two of the ten people on the doctor's prison visitation list. They visited him on a monthly basis for five years and now, residing alternately in Mexico and Canada, speak weekly with him by phone.
You Don't Know Jack, a film about Dr. Kevorkian, was released by HBO films in spring 2010.
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276 pp. 6 x 9
14 b/w photos
Cloth $27.95 t
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Wisconsin print and e-book editions for sale only in the U.S., Canada, and the Philippines
"The writing style is engaging, the subject matter is fascinating, and there is no soft pedaling of details. These include the intricacies of cadaver blood transfusion research, and exactly how ALS patient Thomas Youk's life ended in 1998 (the case that led to Kevorkian's present incarceration). Kevorkian is painted as a gifted child who taunted teachers out of boredom, yet not smart enough to know when/why/how his unconventional ideas would backfire. Had he been more savvy about how to introduce sensitive topics, or latched onto others who were, perhaps the doctor would have been granted the Nobel Prize that he once imagined for himself."Capital Times (7/14/06)
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