COLDWATER, Mich. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist dubbed Dr. Death after claiming he had participated in at least 130 assisted suicides, left prison after eight years Friday still believing people have the right to die.
A smiling Kevorkian said the release was one of the high points of life as he paused near a white van that was waiting for him. He was accompanied by 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace and wore a blue sweater, striped shirt, striped tie, gray slacks, white socks and black shoes.
Inmates inside the prison had been milling about for a glimpse of the 79-year-old, while reporters and television vans greeted him on the outside with cameras and questions.
Attorney Mayer Morganroth said his client planned a news conference next week.
He thanks everybody for coming. He thanks the thousands who have supported him, have written to him and the enormous amount of people who have really been comfortable in supporting him, Morganroth said. He just wants a little privacy for the next few days.
Throughout the 1990s, Kevorkian challenged authorities to make his actions legal or try to stop him. He burned state orders against him and showed up at court in costume.
You think I m going to obey the law? You re crazy, he said in 1998 shortly before he was accused and then convicted of murder after injecting lethal drugs into Thomas Youk, 52, an Oakland County man suffering from Lou Gehrig s disease.
That conviction earned Kevorkian a 10- to 25-year sentence for second-degree murder. He was able to earn time off his sentence for good behavior.
On Friday, the 79-year-old walked out of the Lakeland Correctional Facility about 100 miles west-southwest of Detroit and into the vehicle brought by Morganroth.
He was expected to move to Bloomfield Hills, just outside Detroit, where he will live with friends and resume the artistic and musical hobbies he missed while in prison. His lawyer and friends have said he plans to live on a small pension and Social Security while doing some writing and make some speeches, although he said he doesn t expect them all to be on euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Kevorkian has promised never to help in another assisted suicide. But Ruth Holmes, who has worked as his legal assistant and handled his correspondence while he was in prison, said his views on the subject haven t changed.
This should be a matter that is handled as a fundamental human right that is between the patient, the doctor, his family and his God, Holmes said of Kevorkian s beliefs.
The Michigan Catholic Conference on Thursday warned it would oppose any effort to renew the push for assisted suicide in Michigan. The state has had a law banning assisted suicide since 1998, the same year voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have made physician-assisted suicide legal for terminally ill patients.
Right to Life of Michigan, which also opposes any effort to allow assisted suicide, issued a release this week saying it distrusts Kevorkian s promise to not help anyone else die.
He made similar false promises prior to a string of deaths, the last of which led to his imprisonment, the group said.
But Kevorkian will be on parole for two years, and one of the conditions he must meet is that he can t help anyone else die. He s also forbidden to provide care for anyone older than 62 or who is disabled. If he violates his parole, he could go back to prison.
He ll report regularly to a parole officer in Oakland County s Waterford Township and won t be able to leave the state without permission. He can speak about assisted suicide, but can t put out anything that shows how to make a device like the machine he devised to give lethal drugs to those who wanted to die, said Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan.
Kevorkian suffers from a variety of ailments including diabetes, hepatitis C, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries in his brain. He ll see his internist and a dentist once he s out, as well as some specialists, Morganroth said.
Kevorkian didn t have much to take with him out of prison, in part because many of his possessions have come up missing.
Strange as this may seem, last month ... someone stole his manuscript he d been writing and his belongings, Morganroth said, noting that he expects someone took Kevorkian s clothes and medicine to sell on eBay.
Holmes, a close friend of Kevorkian s, said he ll want to enjoy some of the things he couldn t freely get in prison, including a sandwich of plain sliced turkey on thin lavosh bread.
He s looking forward to some grapes and apricots. He loves pistachios, she said.
Working with Kevorkian, Holmes already has sent off to a book publisher about 250 of the thousands of letters he got while in prison.
He wasn t able to answer all of them, but it was very heartwarming to see the number of people who wrote to him from all over the world, she said.
Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.