While serving his residency at the University of Michigan hospital in the 1950s, Kevorkian became fascinated by death and the act of dying. He made regular visits to terminally ill patients, photographing their eyes in an attempt to pinpoint the exact moment of death. Kevorkian believed that doctors could use the information to distinguish death from fainting, shock or coma in order to learn when resuscitation was useless. "But really, my number one reason was because it was interesting," Kevorkian told reporters later. "And my second reason was because it was a taboo subject."
Not one to avoid distasteful ideas, Kevorkian again caused a stir with colleagues by proposing that death-row prison inmates be used as the subjects of medical experiments while they were still alive. Inspired by research that described medical experiments the ancient Greeks conducted on Egyptian criminals, Kevorkian formulated the idea that similar modern experiments could not only save valuable research dollars, but also provide a glimpse into the anatomy of the criminal mind. In 1958, he advocated his view in a paper presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In a method he called "terminal human experimentation", he argued that condemned convicts could provide a service to humanity before their execution by volunteering for "painless" medical experiments that would begin while they were conscious, but would end in fatality. For his unorthodox experiments and strange proposals, Jack Kevorkian's peers gave him the nickname "Dr. Death."
Kevorkian's controversial views earned him minor media attention which ultimately resulted in his ejection from the University of Michigan Medical Center. He continued his internship at Pontiac General Hospital instead, where he began another set of controversial experiments. After hearing about a Russian medical team who was transfusing blood from corpses into living patients, Kevorkian enlisted the help of medical technologist Neal Nicol to simulate these same experiments.
The results were highly sucessful, and Kevorkian believed the procedure could help save lives on the battlefield -- if blood from a bank was unavailable, doctors might use Kevorkian's research to transfuse the blood of corpse into an injured soldier. Kevorkian pitched his idea to the Pentagon, figuring it could be used in Vietnam, but the doctor was denied a federal grant to continue his research. Instead, the research fueled his reputation as an outsider, scared his colleagues and eventually infected Kevorkian with Hepatits C.
Crusade for Assisted Suicide
After qualifying as a specialist in 1960, Kevorkian bounced around the country from hospital to hospital, publishing more than 30 professional journal articles and booklets about his philosophy on death, before setting up his own clinic near Detroit, Michigan. The business ultimately failed, and Kevorkian headed to California to commute between two part-time pathology jobs in Long Beach. These jobs also ended quickly when Kevorkian quit in another dispute with a chief pathologist; Jack claimed that his career was doomed by physicians who feared his radical ideas.
Kevorkian "retired" to devote his time to a film project about Handel's Messiahas well as research for his reinvigorated death-row campaign. By 1970, however, Kevorkian was still jobless and had also lost his fiancee; he broke off the relationship after finding his bride-to-be lacking in self-discipline. By 1982, Kevorkian was living alone, occasionally sleeping in his car, living off of canned food and social security.