Kevorkian had a difficult time working as a pathologist at the University of Michigan, where he earned his doctorate degree. He did not see eye to eye with his employers, and chose to leave the hospital to pursue his own interests. In 1987, Kevorkian purchased advertising space in Detroit newspapers as a “death consultant.” His first known assisted suicide was for a 54-year-old woman who suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Kevorkian was not charged in the case because Michigan did not have a law in place regarding assisted suicide. The state did file murder charges initially, but those charges were dropped. The Michigan Medical Board, however, did strip Kevorkian of his medical practitioner’s license.
Kevorkian defended himself at subsequent trials by claiming he took no action to assist in his patient’s suicide. He had invented a machine that was designed to be operated by the patient using the machine. Therefore, Kevorkian argued he had no hand in causing the death of his patients. His patients had complete control of the suicide from start to finish. Kevorkian’s role in the deaths was to simply help attach his patients to his machine. The rest was up to them. Some called Kevorkian a raging madman who lost his mind, while others called him an angel for helping to end the suffering of his patients.