Jack Kevorkian

After talks with her husband, sons, minister, and local doctors; Janet Adkins decided she didn?t want to undergo the sustained mental deterioration that Alzheimer?s Disease caused (Uhlman 111). She began to realize she had the disease when she started forgetting songs and failed to recognize notes as she played the piano (Filene 188). ?She read in Newsweek about Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his ?Mercitron? machine, then saw him on the ?Donahue? Television show? (Filene 188). With her husband?s consent but objections by sons and doctors, she telephoned him to arrange to kill herself (Filene 188). She still had a life expectancy of at least ten years with the illness, but she wished to die. She wanted to die before the disease robbed her of her competence (Larson 229). Kevorkian later killed Adkins and faced the consequences boldly (Hendin, ?Suicide in America? 247). The background, process, and effects of Dr. Kevorkian?s questionable first patient, Janet Adkins, have a very detailed story in them.

Janet Adkins led a very productive life up to and even after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer?s, but she couldn?t handle losing control of her brain (Filene 188). She was 54 years old and lived in a wealthy Oregon suburb with her stock broker husband, Ron. She was also the mother of three sons, taught English and piano, went hang gliding, trekked in Nepal, climbed Mount Hood, and generally behaved with a lot of energy (Gutmann 20). She and her husband were longtime Hemlock society members, which advocates Euthanasia in some cases (Betzold 22). ?Doctors at a Portland hospital told her that eventually she would be dependent on her husband for feeding and bathing? (Gutmann 21). She did not want to take her own life in case she messed it up, and her own doctors wouldn?t help her (Hendin , ?Seduced by Death? 132). Though she was still able to carry on clear conversations and demolish her son at tennis; her husband explained that if she was going to go, she?d probably want to go to soon rather than to late (Gutmann 21). After hearing about Kevorkian, Ron Adkins contacted him to employ his services (Wolfson 56). Her husband complained to Dr. Kevorkian that he had to remind her of the times of her tennis lessons, and that she kept leaving her purse in the house. After the brief conversation, Kevorkian agreed to meet with her (Gutmann 20). ?Dr. Kevorkian was a retired pathologist in Michigan with a passionate commitment to promoting assisted suicide and the use of his ?suicide machine?? (Hendin, ?Seduced by Death? 130). He had an abiding interest in helping people die painlessly. He was the perfect person to carry out Janet?s wishes (Larson 229).

Dr. Kevorkian and Janet Adkins then met to discuss their intentions and eventually carry out the suicide (Hendin, ?Seduced by Death? 134). Kevorkian and his two sisters, Margo and Flora, met with Ron, Janet, and Janet?s closest friend Carroll Rehmke in their motel room on June 2, 1990 (Wolfson 56). ?He had already prepared authorization forms signifying Janet?s intent, determination, and freedom of choice, which she readily agreed to sign? (Wolfson 56).

While she was resolute in her decision, and absolutely mentally competent, her impaired memory was apparent when she needed her husband?s assistance in forming the cursive letter ?A.? She could print the letter but not write it, and the consent forms required that her signature be written. So her husband showed her on another piece of paper how to form the cursive letter ?A,? and Janet complied (Wolfson 56).

He then asked her questions from behind a camera in a pre-death consultation. She frequently had to turn to Ron for help with the answers (Betzold 22).

He asked her, ?What are you asking for? Can you put it in plain words??

?I don't know,? Janet Adkins replied.

?Do you want to go on??

?No, I don?t want to go on.?

?You don?t want to go on living??

?I don?t.?

?What?s the word for that??


?No. What is the word for the end of life? What happens when you stop living??

?You?re dead.?

?Is that what you wish??

?Yes? (Betzold 22).

Through this method Kevorkian believed he had established informed consent (Betzold 23). ?As a former pathologist, he had not been Adkin?s attending physician and further lacked the special training necessary to evaluate a patient?s mental state? (Larson 229). The week before she died, Janet selected the music and the readings