DETROIT — A University of Michigan library announced Tuesday that is has acquired the papers of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and is making them publicly available as part of an effort to help people better understand the assisted-suicide advocate and his role in the right-to-die debate.
The Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor said Ava Janus, Kevorkian's niece and sole heir, donated the collection, which spans from 1911 to 2014. It includes correspondence and manuscript drafts as well as files on assisted suicides, including medical histories, photographs, video and audio.
"Long before Jack Kevorkian was known as 'Dr. Death,' he was a child of Armenian immigrants, a successful student, a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School, a musician, composer and scientist," Terrence McDonald, the library's director, said in a statement. "The release of his papers will allow scholars and students to understand the context of and driving forces in an interesting and provocative life."
The collection, which spans eight linear feet, also includes published works photographs, court records, news coverage and interviews. The assisted-suicide files, which involve cases between 1990 and 1998, include medical histories, photographs, and video and audio recordings of consultations with patients.
Kevorkian, a graduate of the University of Michigan's Medical School, died in 2011 in suburban Detroit at age 83. He sparked the national right-to-die debate with a homemade suicide machine that helped end the lives of about 130 ailing people, using the term "medicide" to describe physician-assisted suicide.
"Many of the medicide patients and their families — who remain very close to this day — are still advocates of their family member's choice to die, so anonymity was not an issue," said Olga Virakhovskaya, Bentley's lead archivist who processed the materials.
"We felt very strongly that by not providing access to this collection and to the medicide files, we would be choosing to hide a very important story."
Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 for assisting in the 1998 death of a Michigan man with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was released from prison in 2007.
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