May 25, 2007 -- Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man known as Dr. Death, will be released from a Michigan prison next Friday. Kevorkian spent eight years in prison for participating in an assisted suicide that he had videotaped and broadcast on television.
His attorney told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit that Kevorkian would not participate in any more assisted suicides. And he said that Kevorkian, who turns 79 Saturday, is in seriously declining health as he prepares for his parole next week.
For years, Kevorkian was at the center of a national debate around the highly controversial questions surrounding physician-assisted suicides or "mercy killings:" Do the terminally ill have the right to choose when and how they die? Do doctors have the ability, even an obligation, to help them die as they choose?
Polls suggest that a majority of Americans are in favor of physician-assisted suicide. Kevorkian's attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said his client looks back with qualified regret at the more than 100 suicides he said he assisted throughout the 1990s. It was the assisted suicide of Thomas Youk, who had Lou Gehrig's disease, whose story was broadcast on "60 Minutes" in 1998, that earned Kevorkian a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years for second degree murder.
"He realizes now that breaking laws are not going to help," said Morganroth. Instead, "he has to speak out" for the legalization of assisted suicide, "and that's it. He feels he's lost over eight years of his life. That's certainly something he's not pleased with, but he looks at it as he did something that required him to be punished. He broke a law."
"I look at it as a total waste frankly,'' Mortganroth said.
For the past eight years Kevorkian has been held at Michigan's Lakeland Correctional Facility. He will be released on June 1.
Kevorkian suffers from hepatitis C, which he contracted while serving in Vietnam. Morganroth said Kevorkian's elevated liver enzyme levels "are still very high," but until such time as it starts destroying his liver, he can still function. Morganroth said his client is also suffering from temporal arteritis, which is a hardening of the arteries in the temples.
"He's not in the best shape, but he can function,'' Morganroth said.
Morganroth said Kevorkian gets "20 to 30 to 40'' interview requests a week, and that "he gets a massive amount of correspondence from the public.
"You'd be surprised at how many people have written me and offered to have him stay at their homes when he gets out of prison," said Morganroth. "The man is an icon, but that's neither here nor there.''
Morganroth said Kevorkian will concentrate on educating the public about his position on assisted suicide and will concentrate on "writing, doing his painting and composing music.'' He will lecture -- he's been offered fees up to $100,000, but "I don't think he's going to make a career out of it.
"Money has never interested him.''