A medical examiner from Oakland County, Michigan and three researchers from the University of South Florida have studied key characteristics of 69 patients whose suicides were assisted by Jack Kevorkian between 1990 and 1998. Their findings are published in the December 7 New England Journal of Medicine.
Autopsies show that only 25 percent of Kevorkian's clients were terminally ill when he helped them kill themselves. "Seventy-two percent of the patients had had a recent decline in health status that may have precipitated the desire to die." However, "no anatomical disease was confirmed at autopsy" in 5 of the 69 people. In light of the generally lower rate of suicide among women, it was notable that 71% of these patients were women. Persons who were divorced or never married were over-represented among Kevorkian's clients, "suggesting the need for a better understanding of the familial and psychosocial context of decision making at the end of life" [L. Roscoe, J. Malphurs, L. Dragovic, and D. Cohen, "Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Cases of Euthanasia in Oakland County, Michigan, 1990-1998," Correspondence, 343 New England Journal of Medicine 1735-6 (Dec. 7, 2000)].
Numerous studies have established that the Americans most directly affected by the issue of physician-assisted suicide -- those who are frail, elderly and suffering from terminal illness -- are also more opposed to legalizing the practice than others are:
* A poll conducted for the Washington Post on March 22-26, 1996, found 50% support for legalizing physician-assisted suicide (Washington A18) Voters aged 35-44 supported legalization, 57% to 33%. But these figures reversed for voters aged 65 and older, who opposed legalization 54% to 38%. Majo...
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... suicide: attitudes and experiences of oncology patients, oncologists, and the public." 347 The Lancet 1805 (June 29, 1996):1809
Humphry, Derek. "What's in a word?" Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization 1993, Table 1-A.
Koenig, Dr. Harold et al.. "Attitudes of Elderly Patients and their Families Toward Physician-Assisted Suicide." 156 Archives of Internal Medicine 2240 (Oct. 28, 1996)
Lee v. Oregon, 891 F.Supp. 1429 (D. Or. 1995), vacated on other grounds, 107 F.3d 1382 (9th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 118 S. Ct. 328 (1997).
"Poll Shows More Would Support Law Using Gentler Language," TimeLines (Jan.-Feb. 1994):9
Washington v. Glucksberg, 117 S. Ct. 2258, 2262 n. 7 (1997.
-- -- --. 117 S. Ct. at 2272, quoting United States v. Rutherford, 442 U.S. 544, 558. 1979.
Washington Post, April 4, 1996.
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