In the works: a live-stage treatment on the little-known “human side” of Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian

By Dave Andrusko


(Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP and G. Weaver/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, January to be specific, pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith wrote a column, spurred by a student who wrote to tell Wesley that he was writing a paper about the historical significance of Jack Kevorkian.

The column was quite brilliant and ended on this note:

I really hope K goes down badly in history–or better yet, is forgotten altogether. Because if tomorrow’s history books lionize him as a visionary leader of freedom, the culture of the West will be as dead as Kevorkian’s 130 “patients.”

Later in 2015, Wesley was far less optimistic–and understandably so. In March TIME wrote a piece titled, “Why Dr. Death Wanted to be Tried for Murder,” by Jennifer Latson:

Kevorkian was prepared to go to prison if it meant raising awareness of what he considered to be our nation’s backward, oppressive euthanasia laws… Part of what made Kevorkian such a prominent public figure was his zany personality, coupled with a dramatic flair that “brought a certain approachability to a grim subject,” as TIME wrote in Kevorkian’s 2011 obituary.

Zany? A man whose morbid curiosity in death and the dying process was sick.

I don’t know who it was but someone once wrote to the effect that we will be cursed with the legacy of Kevorkian–“Dr. Death”–for the foreseeable future, and probably a long time after that.

Why do I mention all this? Because Kevorkian has a perverse–I chose the word carefully–appeal for certain artists who for reasons best known to their psychologists find meaning in Kevorkian’s efforts at “art” and his pose as a rebel.

Take the art exhibit in 2014 where eleven of Kevorkian’s paintings were up for sale in Los Angeles at upward of $45,000 per canvas. What were they of? According to Sabrina Bachai, writing for Medical Daily,

“The exhibition of the Michigan-based doctor has paintings ranging from pictures depicting CAT scan machines to paintings of a suicide machine. Among the series of paintings depicting human suffering is one called ‘Paralysis.’ The piece shows a naked man crouched in a claustrophobic prison, half his body turned to stone, his arms and legs useless, and his brain removed. Another series included, the ‘Thanatron,’ which is a medical contraption that helped to inject drugs into terminally ill and incapacitated patients who wanted to end their lives. It’s going for $25,000.

And most NRL News Today readers remember the grotesque HBO glorification of Kevorkian, played by Al Pacino, which earned Pacino an Emmy and Golden Globe.

Well…and I am not kidding–the same man who brought you “You don’t know Jack”–Steve Jones, CEO of Bee Holder Productions–

plans a live stage treatment on the little-known “human side” of assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, who between 1990 and 1998 was involved in more than 130 deaths. Don’t expect an evening of song and dance, but the tentatively titled “Dr. Death: Jack of All Trades” will include an “entertaining” view of the late Kevorkian’s art, music, and writings.

But that’s only part of the story. Jones also plans a TV miniseries on John Z. DeLorean, the late auto industry maverick, and already t he subject of several films and books. But to Jones. They “never got his story right.”

What in the world is the connection between the creator of “the ill-fated DeLorean gull-winged door sports car” and the builder of the Thanatron?

“Both men were visionaries.” “Both of these men led incredible lives,” Jones told the Detroit News’ Mike Martindale.

Kinda weak. Then…

Acting as consultant, on both projects, is well-known Birmingham attorney Mayer Morganroth, who more than a decade ago successfully defended DeLorean in 40 civil and criminal cases seeking in excess of $1 billion from DeLorean.

Morganroth recalls DeLorean as being very outgoing and generous — even loaning the attorney his Manhattan apartment. But he also recalls him as very shrewd — at one point trying to sue Morganroth for legal malpractice to avoid paying $8 million in attorney’s fees racked up over a decade.

Kevorkian and Morganroth became friends, he said, a relationship he still treasures. He aided in Kevorkian’s legal efforts — Kevorkian chose to defend himself in his final trial — and as executor of his estate since his 2011 death.

“DeLorean” is “being filmed partly in Detroit and ‘Dr. Death’ possibly destined for Broadway,” Martindale wrote. “Both productions are in the early stages of development and Jones hopes to finish the projects by late 2016 or early 2017.”