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Omega (Westport). 1999-2000;40(1):165-208.

Gender and physician-assisted suicide: an analysis of the Kevorkian cases, 1990-1997.

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Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


This study examines the seventy-five suicide cases Dr. Jack Kevorkian acknowledged assisting during the period between 1990-1997. Although these cases represent a range of regional and occupational backgrounds, a significant majority are women. Most of these individuals had a disabling, chronic, nonterminal-stage illness. In five female cases, the medical examiner found no evidence of disease whatsoever. About half of the women were between the ages of forty-one and sixty, and another third were older adults. Men's conditions were somewhat less likely than women's to be chronic and nonterminal-stage. The main reasons for the hastened death mentioned by both the person and their significant others were having disabilities, being in pain, and fear of being a burden. The predominance of women among Kevorkian's assisted suicides contrasts with national trends in suicide mortality, where men are a clear majority. It is possible that individuals whose death was hastened by Kevorkian are not representative of physician-assisted suicide cases around the country, because of Kevorkian's unique approach. Alternatively, the preponderance of women among Kevorkian's assisted suicides may represent a real phenomenon. One possibility is that, in the United States, assisted suicide is particularly acceptable for women. Individual, interpersonal, social, economic, and cultural factors encouraging assisted suicide in women are examined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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