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In the 1980s, Kevorkian wrote a series of articles for the German journal Medicine and Law that laid out his thinking on the ethics of euthanasia.|
Prior to attempting to provide assisted suicide services to free living human beings; Jack Kevorkian initially contacted prisons and requested the right to experiment (and potentially perform a type of vivisection) on death row inmates at the time of their execution. When prisons denied Jack Kevorkian's request, he began to place personal ads in Detroit newspapers seeking individuals who wanted to die.
Kevorkian started advertising in Detroit newspapers in 1987 as a physician consultant for "death counseling." In 1991 the State of Michigan revoked Jack Kevorkian's medical license and made it clear that given his actions, he was no longer permitted to practice medicine or to work with patients. Between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted in the deaths of nearly one hundred allegedly terminally ill people, according to his lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. (Later autopsies on several of the individuals Kevorkian assisted in killing revealed that there were no signs of any terminal illness, and that the individual's main motivation to die was due to depression.) In each of the above mentioned cases, the individuals themselves allegedly took the final action which resulted in their own deaths: voluntary euthanasia. Dr. Kevorkian allegedly assisted only by attaching the individual to a device that he had made. The individual then pushed a button which released the drugs or chemicals that would end his or her own life. Two deaths were assisted by means of a device which employed a needle and delivered the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. Kevorkian called it a "Thanatron" (death machine). Other people were assisted by a device which employed a gas mask fed by a canister of carbon monoxide which was called "Mercitron" (mercy machine). This became necessary because Kevorkian's medical license had been revoked after the first two deaths, and he could no longer have legal access to the substances required for the "Thanatron".
On the November 23, 1998 broadcast of 60 Minutes, Kevorkian allowed the airing of a videotape he had made on September 17, 1998, which depicted the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, an adult male with full decisional capacity who was in the final stages of ALS. After Youk provided his fully-informed consent on September 17, 1998, Kevorkian administered a lethal injection. This was novel compared to Kevorkian's other clients, as Kevorkian himself administered the injection, as opposed to having Youk complete the process. During the videotape, Kevorkian dared the authorities to try to convict or stop him from carrying out assisted suicides. This incited the district attorney to bring murder charges against him, claiming that Kevorkian single-handedly caused the death.
During much of this period, Kevorkian was represented by attorney Geoffrey Fieger.