Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Larry King Live
Dr. Jack Kevorkian on Life Since Prison
Aired June 18, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, "Dr. Death," Jack Kevorkian. He claims he helped at least 130 people kill themselves. Acts of mercy? Murder? He regrets nothing, including the 8-and-a-half years he spent behind bars. Is he misunderstood? Is he a monster? The complex, complicated Dr. Jack Kevorkian is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We welcome Dr. Jack Kevorkian back to LARRY KING LIVE. He's a pathologist and a right-to-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 Youk.
He's the focus of a new HBO documentary, "Kevorkian." It premieres on Monday night, 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 that parole. But it also provides some insights into the attitudes and experiences that have shaped a controversial career. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK KEVORKIAN, "DR. DEATH": Well, my research through residency was done trying to find out when a person dies. Exactly what point is their death?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
KEVORKIAN: 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 the time after death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds macabre, but it really wasn't. It had to do with transplant surgery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was much harder to know back then when somebody died, and minutes can make the difference in whether an organ is usable or not.
KEVORKIAN: 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 for machines just to test and make sure they're dead. You don't need that. Just look in the eye. That's blood from the heart. You can tell each beat, you know? They didn't pay attention to it. They just ignored it when I published it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE Dr. Jack Kevorkian. This documentary premieres on the -- we just had the great movie, "You Don't Know Jack," Al Pacino playing you. The documentary right behind it. Why?
KEVORKIAN: Good question.
KING: That's why I asked it.
KEVORKIAN: 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.
KING: How many states allow it?
KEVORKIAN: Three allow it, but it's not allowed right. It's not done correctly.
KEVORKIAN: 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 it's 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.
KING: Would you have the law state that two doctors have to sign off on it?
KEVORKIAN: More than two. I've already published what you do for it.
KING: What do you want?
KEVORKIAN: A failsafe...
KING: Give me your law.
KEVORKIAN: It's in a journal called "American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry." I got it detailed...
KING: Be brief.
KEVORKIAN: ... with a hypothetical case.
KEVORKIAN: They contact the doctor, and the doctor then says -- finds out what the complaint is, all right? Send me your clinical records. Ask your doctor for a copy of your records and send them to me. So we get the clinical records, and we see what the patient's 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 -- then...
KING: So what do you want done? How would you do it?
KEVORKIAN: OK. Then 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 just 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 that do this.
KING: I see, doctors who are expert in the end of life.
KEVORKIAN: Yes. And it's their specialty. They do it in addition to their other practice.
KING: What kind of doctor is best suited to do this, what kind of specialty?
KEVORKIAN: Oh, it depends.
KING: Psychiatrists, you would think.
KEVORKIAN: You always need a psychiatrist. You can't do it without psychiatric consultation. What we do then is send out in a certain zone the doctor who -- at headquarters sends out -- first of all, they pick two groups of doctors. I said three. That's two groups of three. The first group of three is the one who debate and discuss and decide on the eligibility for the service.
KEVORKIAN: Then it goes to the second group of three, one of whom will be selected to perform it. That way, you don't get...
KING: I got it.
KEVORKIAN: ... mixed motives.
KING: And that's it? The third group...
KEVORKIAN: No, that's the -- just two groups.
KING: Oh, (INAUDIBLE) three. KEVORKIAN: Right. And then he will set -- that group will set the -- will do what the patient wants, ask him, Do you want at a hospital, a clinic, or at home?
KING: All right. How long does this process take while the president -- while the patient may be in pain?
KEVORKIAN: It depends on the disease suffering at the time, the patient suffering.
KING: And you hasten it?
KEVORKIAN: You don't hasten it, but you do what the patient wants.
KING: Supposing he wants to die tomorrow.
KEVORKIAN: You do it quickly, but we make sure he's eligible. The main thing is he's eligible. First of all, he's got go to a specialist in his -- with his disease, a psychiatrist, at least one, maybe more.
KING: It can't be easy.
KING: I got it. We don't need all the details. We get the gist.
KING: The gist is you have a right to die. That's what you're saying.
KEVORKIAN: You're born with it.
KING: OK. OK.
KEVORKIAN: It's a natural right.
KING: The movie showed you turned down a lot of people.
KEVORKIAN: Oh, yes. I turned down four out of five.
KING: A lot of people never realized that during the reign of Dr. Kevorkian. He appeared on this show a few times with his lawyer. Has Dr. Kevorkian helped anyone end their life since prison? We'll ask about that. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Jack Kevorkian had invented a do-it- yourself way to die. KEVORKIAN: When the patient hits the switch, the saline is cut off at the same time that the pentothal is started, a concentrated solution, which puts a patient in deep coma. The machine automatically times 60 seconds to turn this one on. Sixty seconds later, it's potassium chloride concentrated which paralyzes the heart muscle and causes what, in essence, is a heart attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monday afternoon, Kevorkian's so-called suicide machine took a life for the first time. She was 59-year-old Janet Adkins of Portland, Oregon. She loved to play tennis and piano, but her husband says Alzheimer's disease robbed her of the ability to do those things.
RONALD ADKINS, HUSBAND: Every day, every, you know, year, more things that she love to do are no longer -- she's no longer able to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legal consequences of helping someone to their own demise are inconsequential to him.
KEVORKIAN: I'll break the law because it's immortal. And if you send me to jail, you better keep me there because I'll do it again when I get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Dr. Kevorkian. The documentary, "Kevorkian," begins on the 28th on HBO.
You turned 82 in May, right?
KING: Eighty-three! How's your health?
KEVORKIAN: 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 used to be pretty lively.
KING: Are you accepting of death?
KEVORKIAN: You have to.
KING: I know. You have no choice.
KEVORKIAN: Yes, you have no choice.
KING: How do you deal with it mentally?
KEVORKIAN: Like everybody else. When you're feeling well, you hate to leave it. Life is nice. But when you've got an affliction that's so persistent and torturous, then you change your mind.
KING: Have you helped anyone since getting out of prison?
KEVORKIAN: 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.
KING: 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?
KING: Are people helping people die?
KEVORKIAN: It's 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, or even if they do, it's an acceptable dose. And the patient dies. In fact, in one hospital, they called it "the death room" whenever they were transferred to that room.
KING: Why give a doctor that much pressure?
KEVORKIAN: Well, it's not pressure. A doctor's always got pressure. I mean, a doctor who's treating somebody with a brain tumor or a heart attack is under pressure, too, and especially when it's an incurable 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 OK to have a doctor help someone come into the world -- which wasn't true at one time. We left it to midwives, see? And that's where the witch hunts started because doctors wanted to get rid of those midwives. And you can help them come into the world, but you can't help them leave the world. It's inconsistent.
KING: It's largely religion, isn't it?
KEVORKIAN: Yes. Yes.
KING: That's your enemy?
KEVORKIAN: I call it mythology, not religion.
KING: But that's your enemy, right?
KEVORKIAN: One of my enemies. The other enemy is the medical profession.
KING: Because? Why would they care? I mean...
KEVORKIAN: They called 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.
KING: What about the Hippocratic oath?
KEVORKIAN: Hippocrates didn't write it. We don't know who wrote it. Pythagoras -- but the research has shown the Pythagoreans, which were the only sect in ancient Greece who were against euthanasia, against abortion, all that -- they were the only sect against it. Of all the philosophical schools, they were against it. And it happened to coincide with Catholic doctrine, which was then coming into power.
KING: What's been life like since prison? Are you carrying on this as kind of a cause?
KEVORKIAN: Well, yes. It's not a cause anymore for me. I think it's a reality. But it's done wrong. These laws in the states are wrong because a doctor can't even participate. That's not a medical service.
KING: How skilled is it to take someone's life?
KEVORKIAN: Every doctor can do it.
KING: Like, any general family practitioner?
KEVORKIAN: Yes. Because you take the most humane, fastest way to do it. That's only logical.
KING: Did it hurt you to see someone die?
KEVORKIAN: No. No, because I -- I -- why would I get -- why would I feel bad about someone whose suffering is ending?
KING: Our guest is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. This documentary -- we're looking forward to it -- airs -- begins on the 28th, HBO. They'll show it many times. A man who knows Dr. Kevorkian, his prison cellmate, joins us from prison next.
KING: We're back with Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Joining us by phone, Dendalee McBee. Convicted of first degree murder in 1971, he was Kevorkian's cellmate at the Lakeland correctional facility in Michigan. Thanks for joining us, Dendalee. What kind of cellmate was Jack?
DENDALEE MCBEE, DR. KEVORKIAN'S CELLMATE (via telephone): Jack was a quiet guy. He's very intelligent, as you already know, and I enjoyed talking to him, being with him.
KING: What did you think of what he did?
MCBEE: Oh, that was an act of mercy, you know. All the -- all the more or less of what they called deaths were all an act of mercy to me. KING: When he -- you were in prison before him, right?
MCBEE: Oh, yes.
KING: When he came in, did you know all about him?
MCBEE: No. I didn't hardly know anything about him, just what I see on the news media.
KEVORKIAN: Did the two of you talk about assisted suicide?
MCBEE: No. Very -- there was a few comments made, but Jack's very private about that. And he had promised -- I think he had promised the Department of Corrections that he wouldn't talk about that or give any medical advice.
KING: Why are you nicknamed "Doc"?
MCBEE: Oh, I just -- I used to sew up people back in the early days, you know, with knife wounds and things like that.
KING: Took care of friends.
KING: All right. What was he like, Dendalee? Jack, what was Dendalee like?
KEVORKIAN: Well, let me add to why he's called "Doc." He's also a self-taught physiotherapist, and he would help inmates all the time. All -- many inmates would go to Doc for help when they got back pain, joint pains.
KING: Wow. Is he in for life?
KEVORKIAN: So he's a helpful man. Whenever he's idle and someone had a lot of work to do, he would voluntarily go over and help them.
KING: Is he in for life?
KEVORKIAN: I think he was.
KING: Are you in for life, Dendalee?
MCBEE: Yes. I got natural life.
KING: How do you approach that day to day? How do deal with it?
MCBEE: One day at a time. It's all just one day at a time, Larry.
KING: How old are you?
KING: And you've been there how long?
MCBEE: Forty years.
KING: Did he help you?
KEVORKIAN: Yes, he did. But 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 use -- plant a little plot for 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!
KING: What effect did prison have on you, Jack?
KEVORKIAN: What effect?
KING: Change you at all?
KEVORKIAN: 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 for natural life...
KEVORKIAN: ... if he'd be in at all. Because when you -- you know, you'd find out his crime was, what are his possibility of doing it again, you know, how has he behaved himself? You know, I never heard Doc use bad language in prison, like the other inmates use. Constant bad language.
KING: Who did you kill, Doc?
MCBEE: I killed Larry Switt (ph) in Monroe, Michigan.
KING: Over what?
MCBEE: An argument him and I had.
KING: So you knew you did it, right?
MCBEE: Oh, yes.
KING: Was it all self-defense? Did you have any plea?
MCBEE: No, no. It wasn't self-defense, Larry. It was just an act of cruelty on my part.
KING: And you're saying, Kevorkian, that that should be forgiven or...
KEVORKIAN: No, don't forgive him. Don't do anything. I mean, 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, and...
KING: Yes, sir.
KEVORKIAN: And he married, I understand, while he was in prison, has a devoted wife who visited him every time. I met her. Great woman.
KING: How is she, Dendalee?
MCBEE: Oh, great. She just left a while ago. We have our visits every Wednesday. And she's home right now.
KING: Dendalee, thanks.
MCBEE: Yes. Thank you, Larry.
KING: Hang tough.
MCBEE: See you, Jack.
KEVORKIAN: Thanks, Doc. Good to talk to you again.
MCBEE: All right.
KING: We'll be back with Jack Kevorkian's attorney right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVORKIAN: You don't know where you 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The new HBO documentary debuts on that channel June 28.
Mayer Morganroth joins us. He's Dr. Jack Kevorkian's attorney. We remember him well from his offices in Michigan when we went to him to be with the good doctor right after he got out of prison. Welcome back to the show. How long have you represented Kevorkian?
MAYER MORGANROTH, KEVORKIAN'S ATTORNEY: About 16 years.
KING: Were you involved in the documentary? MORGANROTH: Yes, I was, very much so. In fact, I originally discussed with Steve Jones (ph), who did the documentary, and signed the contracts (INAUDIBLE)
KING: Is it balanced?
MORGANROTH: I think so, very much so because the documentary really is true to life. It shows Dr. Kevorkian from the time after prison until today. It shows what he was doing, his run for Congress and...
KING: What did you think of the movie, "You Don't Know Jack"?
MORGANROTH: I liked it very much. I thought -- I did some editing of the script myself and worked somewhat on it. I went to the filming of it and helped somewhat in the staging. And I thought it was very, very good and...
KING: Al Pacino...
MORGANROTH: ... Al Pacino did a great -- we had spent quite a bit of time with Pacino.
KING: I know. He told me. What was it like, Jack, to see someone play you?
KEVORKIAN: I was in the car with Neal Nicol, my friend. And he was sifting through some photos he took off the Internet, or someone had sent him or something. And I looked and I says, What's he doing with my picture, you know? It was Pacino! They made him look so much like me!
KING: It must be -- I mean, he had you down.
KEVORKIAN: Oh, sure.
KING: He had you down. They had your sister down, too, right, they had --?
KING: 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?
KING: Will he ever change, Morgan, Mayer?
MAYER MORGANROTH, DR. KEVORKIAN'S ATTORNEY: 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.
KING: The Supreme Court never -- they refused to consider his appeal, right? They didn't grant certiorari.
MORGANROTH: Yes. That's quite a story.
KING: Briefly tell me.
MORGANROTH: In 1997, they had the (INAUDIBLE) case wherein the Supreme Court said they really wanted a case where they had standing. In that case, the particular 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 that 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.
KING: Jack, did you think they'd hear it?
KEVORKIAN: The supreme court?
KING: Why not? Can't say too controversial --
KEVORKIAN: Because from my judgment from what I experience and know, the Supreme Court's corrupt.
KEVORKIAN: Corrupt. What is the aim of the Supreme Court? What's its purpose?
KING: To evaluate, to analyze, to interpret the constitution.
KEVORKIAN: Right. To decide constitutional issues.
KEVORKIAN: And they refuse this -- my attorney submitted it on the basis of the ninth amendment. And they don't want to use that, never been used in 219 years.
KING: Give me the amendment. I used to know them all by heart.
MORGANROTH: The particular amendment that says 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 --
KING: But it didn't define them, right?
MORGANROTH: No, but just think of a natural right. Did you really need an amendment to allow women to vote? They had the natural right to vote.
KING: So, what were they thinking do you think --
MORGANROTH: The same thing with the 14th amendment. Do you think you really need an amendment to say the black people are the same as white people as far as right? But that's what they did. And the reason why they made those amendments was because they didn't want to use the ninth amendment, which they don't use.
KEVORKIAN: Never used.
MORGANROTH: But you would think they would say, gee, they have the right to vote. Gee, they have the same right.
KING: Has it been argued before, the ninth amendment?
KING: Why do you think he went to jail?
MORGANROTH: 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.
KING: His lawyer at the time?
MORGANROTH: I don't want to -- let's just say that I think that --
KING: Well, give me one major thing that you would have covered that wasn't.
MORGANROTH: 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 by the defense. And she said, I'm not going to permit that. The prosecution after hearing that, three weeks later, decided we'll nolle pros. We'll just miss ourselves with that count (ph). That's one error that was growth (ph). And that was despite the client saying don't do that.
KING: That's amazing.
MORGANROTH: Another one was in the final argument. That's when I came back in to take over. The final argument, the prosecutor said to the jury 12 times that Dr. Kevorkian should have taken the stand.
KING: You can never say that.
MORGANROTH: That's automatic mistrial. Counsel just sat there and didn't even understand it and the judge move far mistrial. There was no motion for it.
KING: The brother of the man whose death sent Jack Kevorkian to prison is with us after the break. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom, do you want to go ahead with this? Shake your head yes if you want to go. All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the word "chill" every crop up in any conversation?
MELODY YOUK, THOMAS YOUK'S WIFE: The ugly word never came up in our conversation. Our conversation was about ending his suffering.
JOHN SKRYZNSKI, ASST PROSECUTOR OAKLAND COUNTY: This is not an assisted suicide case. Tom Youk didn't kill himself with Jack Kevorkian's help. Jack Kevorkian killed Tom Youk by injecting him with drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He calls it a murder, a crime, a killing. I call it a medical service. Tom Youk didn't come to me because I want to die, kill me. He came to me to say, please help me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty of lesser charge of second-degree murder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With regard to count II, what is your verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty of delivery of a controlled substance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Jack Kevorkian served more than eight years in prison for a second-degree murder in the 1998 death of Thomas Youk. Thomas's brother terry joins us from Vermont. He had Lou Gehrig's disease. How did you feel about the doctor being convicted in the death of your brother, Terry?
TERRY YOUK, DR. KEVORKIAN ASSISTED BROTHER'S DEATH: Well, of course, we never felt that Jack should have been convicted because we don't believe it was a crime. As far as we're concerned, it was an act of mercy, and we'll always be very grateful for that service that Jack provided for my brother.
KING: Were you involved in the arrangements to have Dr. Kevorkian do this?
YOUK: Yes. At my brother's request, I contacted Jack initially through the mail, and then thereafter, I talked with Jack on the phone and made the arrangements through him, which, by the way, the recent HBO Special completely misrepresents how this happened. They rewrote it to have my sister, Melody, contacting Jack which did not happen. And it's a problem for me because I made a promise to my brother to insulate my sister-in-law from having to deal with any of those kinds of arrangements. So, that's how it really happened though.
KING: But you were not charged, were you?
YOUK: No. Neither myself or my sister-in-law were charged because we weren't there, which was part of the arrangements that we made with Jack before he would do the procedure with my brother. We could not be present so that we would not be criminally culpable. But if I had my druthers, I would have changed that. I have a strong regret that I was not there for my brother's last moment.
KING: How old was your brother?
YOUK: He was 52.
KING: That's a terrible disease, terrible way to die. Was he in the late stages of it?
YOUK: He was. He was -- he was unable to move pretty much any part of his body. He could move one finger on one hand. He was having a very difficult time communicating and speaking to us. He was incredibly uncomfortable in his body and had a lot of pain. And he -- the most terrifying thing was that he was choking, and he couldn't -- he couldn't alert us when he was choking. So, he would wake up in the middle of the night, and -- terrifying for him.
KING: Jack, you let "60 Minutes" film about that. Did you regret it?
KING: Sorry you did it?
KING: Didn't that add to the charge against you, though? Show you doing it.
KEVORKIAN: They probably know by now that I want to bring it to the Supreme Court, and I knew that that the case is standing (ph).
KING: You had to be convicted then.
KEVORKIAN: I had to be convicted. I knew that.
KING: What did you think, Terry, of the video being shown?
YOUK: It wasn't what we really wanted. Jack came to us and he had not been charged yet. And he said it's just a matter of time before they charge me, and when they do charge me, the tape will be made public, and every small news gathering organization and news desk will repackage this and will lose control of the information as it really happened. And his idea was to find a venue, a program that was accessible and fair-handed, and he suggested "60 Minutes," and based on that information, we decided to go forward.
KING: You didn't do anything differently in that event, did you?
KEVORKIAN: Yes, I did.
KING: What did you do?
KEVORKIAN: I did the injection.
KING: Usually they kill themselves, right? So, that was not pure suicide. KEVORKIAN: No. I did the first one too, Adkins, the first case. After that, we had the method where the patient could trigger it themselves.
KING: Terry, have you had since then any second thoughts?
YOUK: I haven't had second thoughts because I was honoring my brother's wishes. It was his choice. He had come to a place in his life where he had -- he didn't have meaning in his life. His body was beyond his use. But I do have regrets. I mentioned earlier that I wasn't able to be there in his last moments. At the end of one's life, he should have the ability to be surrounded by his loved ones and I will regret that for my entire life.
KING: Terry, what do you think history will say of Jack Kevorkian?
YOUK: Well, a lot of people have already said that Jack was maybe not the best spokesperson for end-of-life issues and that he was too brash or this and that or too flying off the handle, and maybe in some cases, that was true, but the truth is that he was passionate about this issue, is passionate about this issue. And he brought it into our living rooms.
He brought it into the culture in a way that has engendered a debate that continues to this day. Unfortunately, it's a very polarized debate at this point, but I think we all have Jack Kevorkian to thank that the issue is out in the open and that we can talk about it.
KING: Thank you, Terry. Terry Youk, the brother of the late Thomas Youk. Well said. The documentary of "Kevorkian" airs Monday night, June 28th. That's when it begins. They'll show it many times on HBO. Does anybody really know Jack Kevorkian? What makes him tic (ph)? Two people who might have the answer are next.
KING: Ava Janus is Dr. Jack Kevorkian's niece. Her mother was Kevorkian's sister and Neal Nicol is Kevorkian's close friend and former co-worker. Both join us from Detroit. Ava, why do you think the public continues to be so interested in Kevorkian?
AVA JANUS, DR. KEVORKIAN'S NIECE: Well, I think it's because he's such an honest man and so frank about everything he says and they find that fascinating.
KING: Neil, why do you think we -- still, we hear the name and something bumps.
NEAL NICOL, DR. KEVORKIAN'S FRIEND AND FORMER CO-WORKER: He became very well known when he was helping patients, and it was in the papers every day. The 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.
KING: Mayer, why do you think it sticks, though?
MORGANROTH: I think it's the subject of death. That's always --
MORGANROTH: And it's Jack Kevorkian. And Jack Kevorkian is trying to give people -- they're in remedial pain and suffering, shall we say their rights.
KING: Earlier this year, HBO aired "You Don't Know Jack," a movie based on Dr. Kevorkian's life. Al Pacino had the starting role. Here's a short clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL PACINO, ACTOR: Ms. Hood (ph), I can carry that for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would have been nice, Dr. Kevorkian, but it's a little late now, don't you think. And it's Mrs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
PACINO: Oh, good. So, you know who I am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I look like June Cleaver? What can I do for you?
PACINO: Well, I have my first patient. What I don't have --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is a place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you'd like to use my home.
PACINO: No. I thought you would -- but use you home. That would be just fine. Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, if you're going to come to my home you're going to have to dress more cheerfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ava, how close did that film capture your uncle?
JANUS: Oh, I would say maybe about 75 percent.
KING: That's not bad.
JANUS: The acting is very good. I think Al Pacino comes as close to my uncle as anyone can.
KING: How about your mother? JANUS: Funny you should ask about that. She was one of my mom's favorite television actresses. My mom thought she was very cute and very, very talented, and I thought she did an excellent job.
KING: What did you think, Neal, of the movie?
NICOL: I loved it. I loved it.
KING: Ava, your mom's role in assisted suicide, you say in that documentary, she was present for a number of your uncle's procedures. Did she ever talk to you about it?
KING: What did she say?
JANUS: 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, and I just thought it was going to take place.
KING: How close you were tied to your sister, Jack? You and your sister, how close?
KEVORKIAN: 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.
KING: What did she die of?
KEVORKIAN: Heart attack.
KING: She had a great role in the movie, though. It was a great role. Mayer, did you like the movie?
MORGANROTH: Very much.
KING: Did Jack Kevorkian play God? We'll answer that next.
KING: Neal Nicol, you were with Dr. Kevorkian during a number of his suicides. You assisted. Were you ever feared for your own legal question?
NICOL: 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 a sign over my front door saying police entrance in the hopes that they would just breaking down the same door all the time rather than breaking down other doors in the house.
KING: How did you and Jack hook up as friends?
NICOL: 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. KING: All right. Let's discuss it. People say it. We'll start with Ava. Was your uncle playing God?
JANUS: No. He's just being a true physician, putting the patient first above anyone and anything else.
KING: Neal? What do you think?
NICOL: Difference between a God and doctor is that God doesn't think 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.
MORGANROTH: He was being a physician. No question about it.
KING: You know many physicians think they're God.
MORGANROTH: 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 transplant. Are they not saving somebody's life? They are playing God.
KING: That man is a doctor.
MORGANROTH: That man is a doctor and many people think that a doctor is playing God.
KING: Jack, you had to think -- no, I don't want to put words in your mouth. You had some power here.
KEVORKIAN: Do you think it was coercive on the patient?
KING: No, no, no, but you had to feel the moment you were assisting people, even though it's what they wanted, you had something.
KEVORKIAN: I felt good. I felt 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.
KING: We asked the other -- we asked Mr. Youk. What do you think, Ava, your uncle's heritage is going to be? What's history going to say?
JANUS: I hope history says that he was a very honest and good physician. Always putting the patient first.
KING: Neal, what do you think?
NICOL: I think they're going to look back and laugh and wonder why it took so long to be accepted. It's common sense.
MORGANROTH: I think that history's going to say that he sacrificed a great deal for people and that he was right.
KING: By going to jail? You mean the sacrifice.
MORGANROTH: Sacrificing, going to jail. Not earning a living most of his life. Money meant nothing to him. He never charged for the services. Buys clothes at Salvation Army. Lived a life of sacrifice in every which way in order to do what he felt was for the public good and as a doctor.
KING: That's a Salvation Army jacket?
KEVORKIAN: That's right.
MORGANROTH: Everything is Salvation Army that he owns. Buy down those shoes.
KEVORKIAN: You can't see my shoes, yes.
MORGANROTH: He lives in a sort of an apartment that most people would not think is something that --
KING: Did you make a lot of money when you were a pathologist at hospitals?
KEVORKIAN: Yes. I think many of them are overpaid.
KEVORKIAN: Yes. They don't work hard. Technicians do their work, and they try to get out of autopsies. They give it to the old man --
KING: Thank you all very much. Thank you, Ava. Thank you, Neal. Thank you, Mayer, and Jack, good seeing you again. Be well.
KEVORKIAN: Thank you. You're welcome and that was excellent coverage.
KING: Thank you.
MORGANROTH: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Kevorkian airs the 28th on HBO. Thanks for watching. Monday night, a big two-hour special, disaster in the gulf, how you can help. It begins at 8:00, two hours. Right now -- two hours now with "AC 360."