Hills Resident Advocated for Assisted Suicide

Janet Good helped others connect with Dr. Jack Kevorkian before her own apparent suicide in 1997.

The life and apparent suicide of a Farmington Hills grandmother in 1997 ties the community with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous assisted suicide advocate .

According to a Pulitzer Prize-winning story published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Farmington Hills resident Janet Good served as an assistant to Kevorkian and a connection to the retired pathologist for those hoping to end their own lives. Reporter Michael Vitez wrote that, after a fall left her mother in a persistent vegetative state in the 1970s, Good became an assisted suicide advocate.

Suffering from pancreatic cancer, the ardent feminist died on Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, at her Farmington Hills home. According to a New York Times obituary, she was survived by her husband, Ray, a retired Detroit Police Department commander; son, Michael; daughter, Marjorie Helmling; sister, Margaret Moran; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

The Detroit Free Press reported in 1997 that attorney Geoffrey Feiger said Kevorkian was with Good when she died; he did not say whether the doctor assisted with her death.

On Aug. 14, 1997, the New York Daily News reported Good had apparently helped Kevorkian in the assisted suicide of Karen Shoffstall, a 34-year-old Long Island, NY, woman who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

Good was passionate about other causes as well. A profile in The Los Angeles Times in 1997 paints the picture of a woman who simultaneously fit the image of a retired suburban grandmother and a fiery advocate. Named to the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1991, Good worked in President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" in 1965. She founded two organizations with a lasting impact: Hemlock of Michigan, an assisted suicide advocacy organization, and the Michigan chapter of the Older Women's League, a national organization that provides a voice for midlife and older women.

The Hall of Fame listing reports that Good served as director for Equal Employment Opportunity with the Michigan Employment Security Commission and co-chaired a governor's task force on sexual harassment, whose advocacy resulted in the inclusion of sexual harassment as a violation of the state's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

But toward the end of her life, she became more involved with Kevorkian. According to an Aug. 28, 1997, report in the Farmington Observer, Good—like Kevorkian—faced criminal prosecution. She was arrested in 1996, after the death of an Ionia woman at a Bloomfield Hills motel; charges were later dropped.

The Observer also reported a statement by Kevorkian released after her death, in which he praised her courage and "strength of character."

"Janet exemplified the best in women," the statement read. "She fought for freedom, liberty, justice and compassion. I loved her."

Good was memorialized in the film You Don't Know Jack, an HBO film released in 2010. She was portrayed by actress Susan Sarandon, who earned Emmy and Screen Actors Guild nominations for her performance.


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