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Suicide assist doctor Kervorkian dies

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian – recently portrayed by Al Pacino in a controversial TV drama - has died at the age of 83.

The groundbreaking American medic helped over 130 chronically and terminally ill patients to die.

Dr Kevorkian passed away at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Detroit.

He had been admitted with kidney and respiratory problems several weeks ago.

An official cause of death had not been determined, but his lawyer said it was likely to be ‘’pulmonary thrombosis’’.

Dr Kevorkian helped patients kill themselves with his self-built "suicide machines," sometimes inside his dilapidated 1968 Volkswagen van.

The retired pathologist usually dropped the corpses off at hospital emergency rooms and morgues, or left them in motel rooms.

He was convicted of murder in 1999 in the death of Thomas Youk, 52, a Michigan man suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He injected Youk with lethal drugs and then showed a videotape of the death on the CBS News television programme 60 Minutes.

After receiving a sentence of 10 to 25 years in 1999, he was parolled in June 2007 after serving eight years.

Dr Kevorkian's medical career has always been unorthodox.

As a junior in the mid-1950s, he began photographing the eyes of patients at the moment of death.

He later gained attention for advocating unorthodox medical practices, such as blood transfusions from corpses to living patients.

By the time of his release from jail, most assisted-suicide advocates had distanced themselves from Dr Kevorkian.

In the US, Oregon, Washington and Montana now allow some form of physician-assisted suicide, or what proponents call "death with dignity."