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Bentley Historical Library

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This story is part of a Michigan Radio series for Black History Month on Black Michiganders who made contributions to science and medicine.

Albert Wheeler understood that in order to succeed in science and medicine, Black people needed access to quality education.

Originally from Missouri, Wheeler arrived in Ann Arbor in 1937 to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Some of his mentors had urged him to go to medical school. Wheeler felt more suited to public health.

Should documents donated to a public university be made public immediately?

That question is at the center of a lawsuit currently before the Michigan Supreme Court.

The University of Michigan Union
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Virginia-based immigration lawyer Hassan Ahmad is suing the University of Michigan to try and get access to papers donated to the school's archive by anti-immigration proponent John Tanton.

The case was dismissed from claims court in December, but arguments were heard in the Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Half of Tanton’s papers are available for public consumption. But 11 boxes of his records have been sealed until 2035 at his request.

Image courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

He became known to the world as “Dr. Death.” His first so-called “medicide” happened in the Detroit area in 1990.

From that point, Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian became the best-known face of the right-to-die movement. He assisted in the suicides of over 100 terminally ill people between 1990 and 1998.

He died in 2011 at age 83.

Now, Kevorkian’s papers are open to the public at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.

Jack Kevorkian's papers donated to U-M library

Oct 14, 2015
The University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

The papers of the controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian are now open to the public at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library.

The collection was donated by Ava Janus, niece of the widely known assisted suicide advocate, and it includes recordings of his consultations with patients seeking to end their lives.

"Kevorkian is probably the best-recognized face of the right-to-die movement," said Michigan Radio senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry.