'Dr Death' fears... dying

2010-06-29 08:44

New York - Jack Kevorkian earned the moniker "Dr Death" by helping more than 130 terminally ill patients commit suicide, but even the right-to-die activist admits that he is afraid of the grim reaper.

Kevorkian, 82, is the topic of a new HBO documentary Kevorkian which reviews a colourful career that included an eight-and-a-half year prison term for second-degree murder between 1999 and 2007.

The 90-minute film includes his musings about life, death and the future, and interviews with close family members, colleagues, and even his former cellmate - with some frank admissions.

"I think I'm afraid of dying as much as anybody is," Kevorkian, a former pathologist, told Reuters Television. "But that's only because I'm comfortable."

Softer side revealed

Kevorkian reveals an oft-overlooked creative side to "Dr Death": a provocative painter, composer, quirky inventor, a bad filmmaker, and a terrible golfer.

But the film also followed one of America's most polarising figures as he ran for Congress in 2008.

So how does he feel about his worldwide reputation as "Dr Death?"

"I suppose if they said Dr Life, people would be happy," Kevorkian said.

"People are taught that life is a wonderful gift. Oh sure, if you're healthy, eating well, got a job, but ask someone in Darfur or in Afghanistan if he thinks life's a gift. Many wouldn't agree with what we say," he added.

Kevorkian said the world has a hypocritical attitude towards voluntary euthanasia, or assisted suicide.

No regrets

"Now we've avoided death because we don't like death. Religion says that's a big enemy, leave it alone.  But we went beyond birth, into conception. Now we're dabbling in that," he said.

"If we can aid people into coming into the world, why can't we aid them in exiting the world?"

The Armenian-American pathologist said he had no regrets, not even his imprisonment for the 1998 death of 52-year-old Thomas Youk who was in the final stages of a form of motor neuron disease. Film footage of Kevorkian giving Youk a lethal injection was shown on national television.

But he admitted that some moments during his incarceration were torture.

"What was the hardest thing in prison? Listening to the snoring," Kevorkian said.

Kevorkian debuts on HBO on June 28, two months after the cable network aired a movie about Kevorkian, You Don't Know Jack, starring Al Pacino in the title role.