Updated Fri. Jun. 1 2007 3:26 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Jack Kevorkian left prison Friday morning after serving more than eight years for helping a terminally ill man end his life.
A smiling Kevorkian, now 79, said it was "one of the high points in life" as he walked out of Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater with his attorney.
Mike Wallace, the correspondent for "60 Minutes," whose airing of a Kevorkian-aided suicide led to the charges and his prison term, met the retired pathologist outside with an embrace and the words, "What do you say, young man?"
Kevorkian is to appear in a "60 Minutes" segment Sunday. His attorney Mayer Morganroth said his client planned a news conference Tuesday.
"He thanks everybody for coming. He thanks the thousands who have supported him, have written to him and the enormous amount of people who have really been comfortable in supporting him," Morganroth said. "He just wants a little privacy for the next few days."
Although he was only convicted of one murder, Kevorkian has said he helped at least 130 people die from 1990 to 1998.
Tina Allerellie says that her sister was one of them. Karen Allerellie, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was found dead in a Michigan hotel room in August 1997 after contacting Kevorkian.
Tina Allerellie told CTV's Canada AM that it's been 10 years since her sister's death, but hearing of Kevorkian's release opened up old wounds.
"I truly thought that he would have died in there. I was actually kind of hoping that he would have," she said.
She blames Kevorkian for her sister's death. Tina Allerellie said that if Karen wouldn't have learned about him through newspapers, she may have worked to manage her illness instead of looking for a way out.
Karen Allerellie sent a fax to Kevorkian after she accidentally urinated during a work meeting. Tina Allerellie said the loss of bladder control, one of the symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease, was too embarrassing for her sister to bear.
"It was extremely humiliating for her -- for her that was the final straw," Allerellie said.
Kevorkian responded immediately to the fax, recommending that Karen Allerellie check into a Holiday Inn in Michigan a few days later.
"We don't know if she tried to back out of it or not," Tina Allerellie said. "None of his patients ever have the chance to speak up afterwards because they're all dead."
Kevorkian, still a staunch advocate of assisted suicide, has said he'll continue to fight for its legalization, but won't do commit any crimes.
He went to jail after being convicted of second-degree murder in the 1998 death of 52-year-old Thomas Youk.
Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, a disorder that leads to the death of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Kevorkian was given a 10- to 25-year sentence and is getting out because of time off for good behaviour.
Recently, he made it clear that he still thinks people have the right to decide when they want to die.
"It's got to be legalized. That's the point,'' he told WJBK-TV in Detroit. "I'll work to have it legalized. But I won't break any laws doing it.''
On Thursday, the Michigan Catholic Conference warned it would oppose any effort to renew the push for assisted suicide in Michigan. The state has had a law banning assisted suicide since 1998, the same year voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have made physician-assisted suicide legal for terminally ill patients.
Oregon is the only state in the nation in which a terminally ill patient with six months or less to live can legally ask a doctor to prescribe a lethal amount of medication.
Right to Life of Michigan, which also opposes any effort to allow assisted suicide, said it distrusts Kevorkian's promise to not help anyone else die.
"He made similar false promises prior to a string of deaths, the last of which led to his imprisonment,'' the group said in a statement this week.
Kevorkian will be on parole for two years, and one of the conditions he must meet is that he can't help anyone else die. He is also prohibited from providing care for anyone who is older than 62 or is disabled. He could go back to prison if he violates his parole.
He will report regularly to a parole officer and won't be able to leave the state without permission. He can speak about assisted suicide, but can't show people how to make a machine like one he invented to give lethal drugs to those who wanted to die, Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said.
His attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said he would bring Kevorkian a suit and tie to wear out of prison. Morganroth will be accompanied by his son Jeffrey, an attorney, and by Ruth Holmes, a paralegal who has been Kevorkian's legal assistant during his years in prison.
They will drive Kevorkian to Oakland County, which includes Detroit's northern suburbs, where he will live with friends.
Kevorkian suffers from a variety of ailments including diabetes, hepatitis C, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries in his brain. He will see his internist, a dentist, as well as some specialists, after his release from prison, Morganroth said.
Kevorkian did not have many possessions to take home, in part because many of them have gone missing.
"Strange as this may seem, last month ... someone stole his manuscript he'd been writing and his belongings,'' Morganroth said, adding that he expects someone took Kevorkian's clothes and medicine to sell on eBay.
Holmes said her friend wants to eat some of the things he couldn't freely get in prison, including a sandwich of plain sliced turkey on thin lavash bread.
"He's looking forward to some grapes and apricots,'' she said. "He loves pistachios.''
Working with Kevorkian, Holmes already has sent to a book publisher about 250 of the thousands of letters he got while in prison.
"He wasn't able to answer all of them, but it was very heartwarming to see the number of people who wrote to him from all over the world,'' she said.
* Kevorkian: Pioneer of Death, Angel of Mercy.