America’s doctor death, Jack Kevorkian, passed away last week. He was famous for having helped to kill over 100 people – and he was proud of it. Although Kevorkian is now standing before his maker, there are plenty more “have needle, will travel” types. In Australia we still have Dr Philip Nitschke promoting his pro-death wares.

What is it about these guys who are so fixated on death? They really are an eerie lot – ghoulish even. Their personal lives seem as strange as their public lives. Consider Derek Humphry, who founded the pro-euthanasia Hemlock Society in 1980.

In a suicide note, Humphry’s second wife said her husband had murdered his first wife, and drove her to her own death. This jarring story is found in Rita Marker’s important 1993 volume, Deadly Compassion: The Death of Ann Humphry and the Case Against Euthanasia.

Philip Nitschke is still going at it here, and is perhaps most famous for seriously arguing that suicide pills should be made readily available in supermarkets. He even said that depressed teenagers should be able to get access to these kill pills.

But it is Kevorkian that I turn the rest of my attention to. Such was his influence that he even made it onto the cover of Time magazine back in May 31, 1993. A large photo of a smiling Kevorkian was accompanied by the text: “Doctor Death: Dr. Jack Kevorkian is back on his suicide crusade. Is he an angel of mercy or a murderer?”

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