tv Larry King Live CNN June 19, 2010 12:00am-1:00am EDT
we welcome dr. jack kevorkian back to "larry king live." he's a pathologist and a right- 2-die activist. he claims to have been involved in at least 130 physician-assisted suicides. you'll remember he served more than eight years in prison for second degree murder in the 1998 death of thomas youth. he's the focus of a new documentary "kevorkian" that premieres june 28. much of the film focuses on dr. kevorkian's life since his parole in 2007. by the way, he was with us right after his parole. but it provides the insights and attitudes and experiences that have shaped a controversial career. take a look. >> all my research through residency was done trying to find out when a person dies exactly what point is their death. >> before i met jack, he did some research on the eye in
death where he looked at the retinas of people in their last moments and noted the changes in the vessels in the back of the eye. >> i went down and checked the corpses and i took photographs of the eye. how long after death how things changed so i could tell a time after death. >> it had to do with transplant surgery. >> it was much harder to know back then when somebody died and minutes could make the difference in whether an organ is usable or not. >> so i did it. and then you get the -- they start calling you dr. death back then, see, because i was dealing with corpses all the time. but then when organ transplants came and they had the person who's terminal, they've got to know when he's dead to take his organs. what did they do? they paid billions of dollars in machines to make sure he's dead. look in the eye.
you can tell from the heart each beat. you know, they didn't pay attention to it. they just ignored it when i published it. >> larry: i should welcome back to "larry king live" dr. jack kevorkian. this documentary premieres. we just had the great move. al pacino playing you. documentary right behind it. why? >> good question. >> larry: that's why i asked it. >> you know, that's enough about me. it's the issue that matters. unfortunately i'm connected so intimately with it, it's always about me. the issue isn't alive. i am, see? so they concentrate on me. but it's time to do something about this because everyone knows it's needed. they do it secretly now. doctors do it secretly now. also you have spouses where one shoots -- one kills the other
and then has to commit suicide because they're afraid of prosecution. these are unnecessary deaths, unnecessary suffering, misery. >> larry: how many states allow it? >> three allow it, but it's not allowed right. it's not done correctly. >> larry: meaning? >> it's done wrong. it's not a medical service the way it's laid in the law. you don't need a law for this. all you have to say is legitimate medical practice. now you can't pass a law against it. now it's up to the doctors to set the guidelines like they do with every medical procedure. >> larry: would you have the law state that two doctors have to sign off on it? >> more than two. i've already published what you do for it. >> larry: what do you want? give me your law. >> it's in a journal called "american journal of forensic psychiatry." i've got it detailed with a hypothetical case. >> larry: okay. >> they contact the doctor, and
the doctor then says -- finds out what that complaint is, all right? send me your clinical records. ask your doctor for a copy of the records and send them to me. so we get the clinical records, and we see what the patients had, what treatment, what pain control, what works, what doesn't, what the doctor thinks is the problem, and the patient knows the doctor's not going to help him. he knows that. and so it's ineffective. what we've got to -- >> larry: so what do you want done? how would you do it? >> okay. we have a consultation with the patient first especially, and with a spouse if possible, and with the family members. and later on with friends and relatives. all as one group. we have a real confab over it. then we have -- the way i laid it out, you break the state up into sections. in michigan i did it arbitrarily
11 sections, 11 zones i call them. and each one has its own group of doctors who do this. >> larry: i see. doctors who are expert in the end of life. >> yes. and it's their specialty. they do it in addition to their other practice. >> larry: what kind of doctor is best suited to do this? what kind of specialty? >> it depends. >> larry: psychiatrists, you would think. >> you always need a psychiatrist. you can't do it without psychiatric therapy -- consultation. what we do then is send out in a certain zone the doctor who at -- at headquarters -- first of all, they pick two groups of doctors. i said three. two groups of three. the first group of three is the one who debate and discuss and decide on the eligibility for the service. >> larry: then? >> then it goes to the second group of three, one of whom will be selected to perform it. that way you don't get --
>> larry: i got it. >> -- mixed motives. >> larry: and that's it? the third group -- >> that's the -- just two groups. >> larry: three. >> right. then he will set -- that group will set the -- will do what the patient wants, ask him, do you want a hospital, a clinic, or at home. >> larry: all right. how long does this process take while the president -- while the patient may be in pain? >> it depends on the disease suffering at the time, the patient suffering. >> larry: and you hasten it. >> you don't hasten it, but you do what he wants. >> larry: suppose he wants to die tomorrow. >> you do it quickly,but make sure he's eligible. make sure he's eligible. first of all, he's got go to a specialist with his disease, a psychiatrist, at least one, maybe more. >> larry: it can't be easy. we don't need all the details. we get the gist.
the gist is you have the right to die. >> yeah. you're born with it. it's a natural right. >> larry: okay. the movie showed you turned down a lot of people. >> oh, yeah. i turned down four out of five. >> larry: a lot of people never realized that during the reign of dr. kevorkian. he's appeared on this show a few times with his lawyer. has dr. kevorkian ended anyone's life since prison? we'll ask that. stay with us. over three-quarters of a million families... refinance or purchase their home. - and that's why i love... - i love... i love being a home loan expert. ♪ i lonow snapple's got a hohealthy green tea, tasty black tea, real sugar, what's our slogan? bester stuff! - stuffy stuff! - good stuff for bettering stuff! guys? the best stuff on earth just got better. - good stuff, craig. - we're dating. [ announcer ] snapple. the best stuff on earth just got better.
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>> larry: dr. jack kevorkian had invented a do-it-yourself way to die. >> when the patient hits the switch it's cut off at the same time it's started. a concentrated solution which puts a patient in a deep coma. the machine automatically times 60 seconds to turn this one on. 60 seconds later, potassium chloride which paralyzes the heart muscle and causes in essence what's a heart attack. >> larry: monday afternoon dr. kevorkian's so-called suicide
machine took the life for a first time. she was 59-year-old janice adkins. she loved to play tennis and piano, but her husband says her illness robbed her to do those things. >> the things she loved to do, she's no longer able to do. >> the legal things are not known to him. >> we'll send you to jail. you'd better keep me there because i'll do it again when i come out. >> larry: the documentary kevorkian begins the 28th on hbo. you turned 82 in may, right? >> 83. >> larry: how's your health? >> not so good. i'm weak. i got badly ill in the last year of prison. some illness. it looked like a severe flu, but i've never recovered the full strength i had before. you know, i'm usually pretty lively.
>> larry: are you accepting of death? >> you have to. >> larry: i know you have no choice. >> yeah, you have no choice. >> larry: how do you deal with it mentally? >> like everybody else. when you're feeling well, you hate to leave it. life is nice, but when you've got affliction that's so persistent and torturous, you change your mind. >> larry: have you helped anyone since getting out of prison? >> no. >> larry: because? >> several reasons. first, two years on parole i couldn't. i'd be back in prison. and if i do it again, you just create turmoil. you don't create any advance. >> larry: is this being done not the way you did it with kind of attention -- is this being done around the country on a regular basis? are people helping people die? >> it's been done in hospitals even quietly. even hospices do it quietly, you
know. they turn up the dose a little, you know. it's not recorded. even if they do, it's an acceptable dose. and the patient's dies. in fact, in one hospital they call it the death room whenever they were transferred to that room. >> larry: why give the doctor that much pressure? >> well, it's not pressure. a doctor's always got pressure. i mean a doctor treating somebody with a brain tumor or heart attack is under pressure, too, especially when it's an in curable disease. he's really under pressure then, see? a doctor always plays god, always is under pressure. now, isn't it strange that -- the inconsistent society we have says it's okay to have a doctor help someone come into the world, which wasn't true at one time. we left it to midwives, see? that's where the witch hunt started because doctors wanted to get rid of those midwives.
you can help them come into the world, but you can't help them leave the world. it's inconsistent. >> larry: it's largely religion, isn't it? >> yes. i call it mythology, not religion. >> larry: that's your enemy, right? >> one of my enemies. the other enemy is medical profession. >> larry: because -- why would they care? >> they call it a criminal act because they go with what the law says, not medical -- we don't have any medical ethics. we never did have. those are all religious ethics because doctors were connected with hospices during the middle ages, which were always religious institutions. >> larry: what about hippocratic oath? >> hippocrates didn't write it. the researchers show the pythagoreans who were against euthanasia and abortion were the only ones against it.
of all the philosophical schools they were against it and it happened to coincide with catholic doctrine what then came into power. >> larry: what's life been like since prison? are you carrying on the cause? >> i don't think it's a cause. it's reality. but i think it's wrong. a doctor can't even participate. that's not a medical service. >> larry: how skilled is it to take someone's life? >> every doctor can do it. >> larry: really? >> yeah. >> larry: like any general family practitioner? >> yes. because you take the most humane, fastest way to do it. that's only logical. >> larry: did it hurt you to see someone die? >> no, no, because i -- i -- why would i get -- why would i feel bad about someone who's suffering is ending? >> larry: our guest is dr. jack kevorkian.
his documentary -- we're looking forward to it -- begins on the 28th on hbo. they'll show it many times. the man who knows dr. kevorkian, his prison cellmate, joins us from prison next. it doesn't take much; an everyday moment can turn romantic at a moment's notice. and when it does, men with erectile dysfunction can be more confident...
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>> larry: we're back. convicted of first degree murder in 1971, hi was kevorkian's cell mate at the lakeland correctional facility in michigan. thanks for joining us. what kind of cellmate was jack? >> jack was a quiet guy. he's very intelligent as you already know, and i enjoyed talking to him, being with him. >> larry: what did you think of
what he did? >> oh, that was an act of mercy, you know. all the -- all the acts were acts of mercy. >> larry: when he came in, did you know all about him? >> no, i didn't hardly know anything about him, just what i seen on the news media. >> larry: did the two of you talk about assisted suicide? >> no. very -- there was a few comments made, but jack's very private about that. he had promised -- i think he had promised the department of corrections that he wouldn't talk about that or give any medical advice. >> larry: why are you nicknamed doc? >> oh. i just -- i used to sew up people back in the early days, you know, with knife wounds and things like that.
>> larry: took care of friends. >> yeah. >> larry: all right. what was he like, jack? >> well, let me ad to why he's called doc. he's also a self-taught physiotherapist and he would help inmates all the time. many inmates would go to doc for help when they got back pain, joint pains. >> larry: wow. is he in for life? >> whenever he's idle and someone had a lot of work to do he would voluntarily go over and help them. >> larry: is he in for life? >> i think he was. >> larry: are you in for life? >> yeah. i've got natural life. >> larry: how do you approach that day to day? >> one day at a time. it's all just one day at a time, larry. >> larry: how old are you? >> 73. >> larry: and you've been there how long? >> 40 years. >> larry: did he help you? >> yes, he did. i had lost notes. somebody had stolen notes at one time. and doc helped me look for them and doc discovered them, where
they were. and he also helped -- he let me help him in the garden. we had -- inmates could plant a little plot of vegetables and things, and he took me in, taught me something about gardening, and i became very good at raising radishes and green beans, i'm telling you. >> larry: what effect did prison have on you, jack? >> what effect? >> larry: impact. change you at all? >> it changed me somewhat because i realize now there are so many men who are not -- who don't belong there. that's because we use the wrong method of getting them there. it's called sanctuary. we don't have the old sanctuary method which according to the old sanctuary method, doc wouldn't be in there. >> larry: why. >> you'd find out his crime, how
he's behaved himself. i never heard doc use bad language in the prison like other inmates you. >> larry: who did you kill? >> i killed larry switt in michigan. >> larry: over what? >> an argument him and i had. >> larry: so you knew you did it, right? >> oh, yeah. >> larry: was it all self-defense? did you have any plea? >> no, no. it wasn't self-defense, larry. it was an act of cruelty on my part. >> larry: and you're saying, kevorkian, that should be given? >> don't forgive him. he paid a penalty. we have a penalty for it. but after 40 years in prison, what sense is there to continue it when the man is civil, he speaks calmly, you can tell. >> larry: yes, sir. >> and he married, i understand,
while he was in prison, has a devoted wife who visits him every time. i met her. great woman. >> larry: how is she? >> oh, great. she left a while ago. we have our visits every wednesday, and she's home right now. >> larry: thanks. >> yeah. thank you, larry. >> larry: hang tough. >> see you, jack. >> thanks, doc. good to talk to you again. >> all right. >> larry: we'll be back with kevorkian's attorney right after this. tdd# 1-800-345-2550 i thought investment firms were there tdd# 1-800-345-2550 to help with my investments. tdd# 1-800-345-2550 so where's that help when i need it?
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came from, you don't know where you are, and you don't know where you're going when you die. period. never going to know. religion ain't going to explain it. science isn't going to explain it. that's all there is to it. and you've got to accept that fact. if you do, then death loses its terror. it's part of life. >> larry: we're back. the documentary "kevorkian" debuts on that channel june 28. kevorkian's attorney. we remember him well. welcome back to the show. how long have you represented kevorkian? >> about 16 years. >> larry: were you involved in the documentary? >> yes, i was, very much so. in fact, i originally discussed with steve jones who did the documentary and signed the contracts. >> larry: is it balanced? >> i think so. very much so because the documentary, really, is true to light.
it shows dr. kevorkian from the time after prison till today. it shows what he was doing, his run for congress. >> larry: what did you think of the movie, "you don't know jack?" >> i liked it. i helped in the scripting of it, helped in the filming, the staging. i thought it was very, very good. al pacino was grade. we had spent quite a bit of time with pacino. >> larry: i know. he told me. what was it like, jack, to see someone play you? >> i was in the car with neil nicol, my friend. he was sifting through photos he took off the internet or someone had sent him or something. and i said, what's he doing with my picture, you know. it was pacino. they med him look so much like me. he had you down. >> oh, sure. >> larry: he had you down. they had your sister down too. >> yeah, yep. >> larry: when you did this show
back in 1997 before going to prison you said you bugged people because you were very forthright and strident. have you changed? >> no. >> larry: will he ever change, morgan -- mayor? >> i don't think so. i think that to a certain degree he's mellowed, but he's not going to change. what he feels, he says. >> larry: the supreme court never -- they refused to consider his appeal, right? they didn't grant certiorari. >> yeah. that's quite a story. >> larry: briefly tell me. >> in 1997 they had the case wherein the supreme court said they really wanted a case where they had standing. in that particular case the person was not terminal and also was not in remedial pain and suffering. they wanted a case like that. so the thomas youk case, the case he was convicted of, we took to the supreme court, and without any reason they rejected
it without taking it, which i felt was not just unusual but inappropriate. >> larry: jack, did you think they'd hear it? >> the supreme court? >> larry: mm-hmm. >> no. >> larry: why not? can't say too controversy. >> because from my judgment from what i know, the supreme court's corrupt. >> larry: correct. >> corrupt. what's the aim of the supreme court? what's its purpose. >> larry: to analyze and determine the constitution. >> analyze the constitution and my attorney submitted it on the basis of the ninth amendment. they don't want to use that. never been used in 219 years. >> larry: give me the amendment. i used to know them all by heart. >> the bill of rights, anything that's enumerated can't be, shall we say, lessened or
abridged by taking away any of the natural rights that people have, and therefore the natural rights -- >> larry: but it didn't define them, right? >> no, but just think of a natural right. wow you'd need an amendment to allow women to vote? they had the right to vote. >> larry: what were you thinking? >> the same thing with the 14th amendment. do you need an amendment to say the black people are the same as whites? that's what they did. the reason why they made those amendments is because they didn't want to use the 9th amendment, which they don't use. >> never used. >> but you would think they would say, gee, they have the right to vote, gee, they have the same right. >> larry: has it been argued before, the ninth amendment? >> nope. >> larry: why do you think he went to jail? >> well, i think he went to jail, frankly, for many errors in the trial that took place. i think he would have and should have been acquitted. >> larry: his lawyer at the time?
>> i don't want to -- let's just say -- >> larry: well, give me one major thing that you would have covered that wasn't. >> first of all, the lawyer in the case made a motion to rid the court and the particular case of the assisted suicide count. when the judge heard that motion, the judge said -- and by the way, it was done against his orders. he said not to do it. the judge said, that's wrong. you realize, counsel, if you do that, there can't be any pain and suffering that's shown wi the defense. she said, i'm not going to permit that. the prosecution after hearing that three weeks later decided we'll nolle pros that. that was one error. that was despite the client saying don't do that. >> larry: that's amazing. >> the other one was the final argument. that's when i came back in to take over. the prosecutor said to the jury 12 times that dr. kevorkian should have taken the stand.
>> larry: you can never say that. >> that's automatic mistrial. counsel sat there and didn't understand it and the judge move far mistrial. there was no motion for it. >> larry: the brother of the man whose death sent jack kevorkian to prison is with us after the break. don't go away. rth. and at ge, we're using it, right now, to create innovative technology that will improve the health of our economy... the health of the earth... ♪ ...and the health of its people. ♪ ♪ [ both screaming ] i got into one of the most expensive schools in the country! [ male announcer ] when stress gives you heartburn with headache... alka-seltzer gives you relief fast. [ low male ] plop, plop. [ high male ] fizz, fizz.
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both join us from detroit. ava, why do you think the public continues to be so interested in kevorkian? >> well, i think it's because he's such an honest man and so frank about everything that he says and they find that fascinating. >> neil, why do you think we still -- we hear the name, something bumps. >> he became very well-known when he was helping patients. and it was in the papers every day. and governor was trying to get rid of him and they were passing laws against him, so he was -- he was better known than a lot of our politicians. >> larry: mayor, why do you think it sticks, though? >> there's a subject of death that will stick and it's jack kevorkian. he's trying to get people in pain and suffering the rights. >> larry: earlier this year hbo aged "you don't know jack," a
movie based on jack's life. here's a short clip. >> it's good. i can carry that for you. >> that would have been nice, dr. ke voerk i can't be but it's a little late now, don't you think? and it's missus. >> missus? >> yep. >> oh, good. so you know who i am? >> do i look like june cleaver? what can i do for you? >> well, i have my first patient. what i don't have is -- >> is a place. >> yes. >> and you'd like to use my home? >> well, no. i thought you'd know a place. but i could use your home. that would be just fine. sure. >> well, if you come to my home you have to dress more cheerfully. >> larry: ava, how close did that film capture your uncle?
>> oh. oh, i would say maybe about 75%. >> larry: not bad. >> the acting is very good. i think al pacino comes as close to my uncle as anyone can. >> larry: how about your mother? >> funny you should ask about that. she was one of my mom's favorite television actresses. my mom thought she was cute and talented and i thought she did an excellent job. >> larry: what did you think, neil, of the movie? >> i loved it. i loved it. >> larry: ava, your mom's role in assisted suicide, you say in the documentary, she was present for a number of your uncle's procedures. did she ever talk to you about it? >> sometimes. >> larry: what did she say? >> she would tell me how -- how the family members felt, how intense it was. they were -- they were hurting they were going to lose someone they loved dearly and yet they were glad it was going to take
place amid the sadness. >> larry: things that tie to your sister, jack? how close with your sister? >> very. i mean, i knew it when she died how close we were. before that, you know, like kids, we squabble with each other. we were mean to each other when we were kids. >> larry: what did she die of? >> heart attack. >> larry: great role in the movie, though. great role. mayer, did you like the movie? >> very much. >> larry: did jack kevorkian play god? [ man ] this is bailey's favorite time of day. mine too. i'm chef michael, and i love to delight bailey's senses.
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>> larry: neil, you were with dr. kevorkian during a number of his suicides. were you ever feared for your own legal question? >> well, we were arrested on several occasions and my home was broken into with search warrants a couple of times. it got to where i put over my front door saying police entrance in the hopes they would break down the same door all the time rather than breaking down other doors in the house. >> larry: how did you and jack hook up as friends? >> we originally met at a hospital in pontiac, pontiac general, where i was working. he was working. and we just had a match in personalities. >> larry: all right.
let's discuss it. people say it. we'll start with ava. was your uncle playing god? >> no. he's just being a true physician, putting the patient first above anyone and anything else. >> larry: neal? what do you think? >> difference between a god and doctor is that god doesn't think that he's a doctor. jack was playing doctor. he was doing what a doctor was supposed to do. god had nothing to do with it. >> larry: mayer? >> he was being a physician. no question about it. >> larry: you know many physicians think they're god. >> yes. and they do acts of god. when they give medicine -- when they give medicine and when they shall we say commit an operation, heart trance lant. are they not saving somebody's life? they're playing god. >> larry: man is a doctor. >> man is a doctor and many people think that a doctor is playing god. >> larry: jack, you had to think
-- i don't want to put words in your mouth. you had some power here. >> who? >> larry: you. >> it was coercive on the patient? >> larry: no, no. you had to feel the moment you were assisting people, even though it's what they wanted, you had something. >> i felt good. i felt that that's what i'm here for. that's why i'm in medicine. really. you know? i'm not just handing out aspirin for some symptom or something. i mean, this is -- this is really where the rubber meets the road in medicine. >> larry: we asked the other -- we asked mr. youk, when do you think, ava, your uncle's heritage is going to be? what's history going to say? >> i hope history says that he was a very honest and good physician. always putting the patient first. >> larry: neal, what do you think? >> i think they're going to look back and laugh and wonder why it took so long to be accepted.
it's common sense. >> larry: mayer? >> i think that history's going to say that he sacrificed a great deal for people and that he was right. >> larry: by going to jail? you mean the sacrifice. >> sacrificing, going to jail. not earning a living most of his life. money meant nothing for him. he never charged for the services. buys clothes at salvation army. lived a life of sacrifice in every which way to do what he felt was for the public good and as a doctor. >> larry: salvation army jacket? >> yes. >> you can't see my shoes, yeah. >> he lives in a sort of an apartment that most people would not think is something that -- >> larry: did you make a lot of money when you were a pathologist at hospitals? >> yeah. i think many of them are overpaid. >> larry: overpaid? >> yeah. they don't work hard. technicians do their work and they try to get out of autopsies.