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Jack Kevorkian: What is the legacy of 'Dr. Death'?

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Jack Kevorkian, the controversial figure at the centre of the assisted suicide debate in the U.S., died Friday in Michigan at 83.

He claimed to have assisted in the suicides of 130 terminal ill patients. Kevorkian first helped a terminally ill patient die in June 1990. He was charged numerous times throughout the 1990s, and was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. He was paroled in 2007 after serving eight years in prison.

He came to be known as Dr. Death after he built a suicide machine, which he called the "Mercitron" or the "Thanatron," to help patients with limited mobility kill themselves.

He is credited with bringing attention to the issue of palliative care and the suffering of terminally ill patients who wish to choose the circumstances of their own death.

Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in Canada, but Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde has introduced bills to legalize assisted suicide since 2005. The most recent, Bill C-384, was voted down on second reading in April 2010.

What is the legacy of Jack Kevorkian? Did he succeed in bringing attention to the plight of terminally ill patients? Or was he, as the American Medical Association said in 1995, "a reckless instrument of death"?

Tags: Health

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