(?1928– ) medical pathologist; born in Pontiac, Mich. He was serving his residency in medical pathology at the University of Michigan Hospital when in 1953 he was dismissed because of his proposal that death-row inmates simply be rendered unconscious (instead of executed) so that their bodies could be used for certain medical experiments. After completing his internship at Pontiac (Mich.) General Hospital (1955), he joined the pathology department of the Pacific Hospital, Long Beach, Calif. (1955–82). Again he was let go because of his controversial views, and now unable to find a staff job, he moved to a small apartment in Royal Oak, Mich., and began to support himself (he was unmarried) by writing for European medical journals—often on issues regarding euthanasia. By 1989 he had invented his first "suicide machine," but the American medical establishment would not deal with him. He reached out to the public by appearing on such shows as Phil Donahue in 1990, but did not attain complete national prominence until June 4, 1990, when he used his apparatus to help a 54-year-old woman commit suicide. Using variations of his original apparatus, he thereafter proceeded to help a series of individuals commit suicide while defying the Michigan law passed specifically to stop him. In so doing he gained the nickname "Dr. Death" along with immense publicity, but whatever his motives, manners, and methods, he was forcing several important issues onto the public stage.
Some credit, or discredit, is owed to Jack Kervorkian and to Derek Humphries (of the pressure group Exit) and to utilitarian philosophy teachers such as Michael Tooley and Jonathan Glover and Richard Hare and Mary Warnock.