Most of Kevorkian's "Patients" Not Terminally Ill

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A group of researchers have studied the medical histories of a sampling of the people who died with the assistance of Mr Kevorkian. Among their findings: only 25% were terminally ill, and 7% showed no signs of physical illness at all. 13% had symptoms of clinical depression, and a disproportionate number were divorced, widowed, or never married.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 7, 2000. The researchers studied medical records and other information on the 69 people who died with the involvement of Mr Kevorkian in Oakland County, Michigan, between 1990 and 1998. These 69 were all autopsied by the Oakland County medical examiner's office. The researchers choose this group so they would have a consistent set of records to study.

The researchers were Lori Roscoe, PhD; Julie E Malphurs, MA; and Donna Cohen, PhD, of the University of South Florida; and L J Dragovic, MD, of the Pontiac Michigan medical examiner's office.

Characteristic Number Percent
Gender Male 20 29
Female 49 71
Race White 66 96
Non-white 3 4
Marital status Married 23 33
Divorced 24 35
Widowed 9 13
Never married 13 19
Medical condition Physical health problems1 66 96
Recent decline in health status 50 72
Terminal illness2 17 25
Depressive symptoms 9 13
In pain3 24 35

1. In 5 patients, the autopsy found no evidence of any physical illness.

2. Persons who could have expected to live less than 6 months, based on autopsy findings.

3. A person was classified as "in pain" if their medical records indicated that they reported pain or sought treatment for pain; if pain was mentioned in court records, newspaper articles, or suicide notes; or if the results of the autopsy indicated that the person was likely in pain.


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Written 13 Dec 2000

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