ethiCs & mediCine
Between the Dying and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life and the
Battle to Legalize Euthanasia
Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
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Dr. Jack Kevorkian stands as one of the most recognizable public villains of past decades. “Dr. Death”
made headlines in his quest to legalize assisted suicide, and his name continues to be thrown around to
describe people and policies related to the issue. Between the Dying and the Dead provides a window
into his life.
The work begins close to the present time, describing the case that led to Kevorkian’s imprisonment. It
then turns back the clock to relate Jack’s life story from the beginning. The rest of the book follows this
format, detailing aspects of his childhood, education, research, and imprisonment. It includes several
informative and interesting details, some shedding important light on his understanding of suffering
(such as his parents’ flight from the Armenian genocide of World War I [25-31] and his mother’s
painful battle with cancer [112-114]) and others merely interesting (such as Jack’s failed attempt at
producing a film based on Handel’s Messiah [125-130] or his unfruitful business venture into the realm
of professional sports merchandize ). Nicol and Wylie follow Jack through his trials and ultimately
imprisonment. Published in 2006, the book ends before Kevorkian’s parole in 2007.
Nicol and Wylie are two of Kevorkian’s closest companions. This relationship leads to interesting stories
and inside information, but those looking for a somewhat-neutral biography will be disappointed. The
authors clearly side with Kevorkian’