Only weeks after being briefly jailed on charges of violating Michigan's law banning assisted suicide, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was present Monday when a 61-year-old cancer patient took his own life by inhaling carbon monoxide.
Dr. Ali Khalili, a retired doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, was found by police on a couch in an apartment rented by Kevorkian in Royal Oak, Mich. Kevorkian, whose own apartment is next door, was standing in the hallway outside when police arrived.
It was the 20th suicide at which Kevorkian has been present since 1990 and the fourth since Michigan passed the law prohibiting assistance at suicides.
Police Lt. Don Novak said officers were called to the apartment by an unidentified man reporting a "medicide," Kevorkian's term for doctor-assisted suicide. Kevorkian was taken to the police station for questioning but refused to answer questions and was released.
A statement released by Kevorkian's attorney said that Khalili of Oak Brook, Ill., was in unremitting pain caused by multiple myeloma, a bone cancer. A full-time morphine pump no longer provided relief and "Dr. Khalili's bones had begun fracturing as the cancer spread throughout his body," the statement said.
Dr. Sukhjit Gill, a cardiologist and colleague of Khalili's at Chicago's Grant Hospital, described Khalili as "very weak, emaciated . . . Basically every moment was painful."
Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. L. J. Dragovic listed Khalili's death as a homicide, saying his vital organs were in good shape, and that he would have been in "no immediate danger of dying within months, maybe even years."
Kevorkian, 65, already faces two charges of illegally assisting a suicide but those are pending in neighboring Wayne County. He is free on bail in those cases and is challenging the constitutionality of the law.
Wayne County Prosecutor John O'Hair urged Oakland County authorities to arrest Kevorkian and "see that he is basically detained in the Oakland County Jail until his date of trial."
Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson declined to comment Monday.
Earlier this month Kevorkian had to be dragged to jail in Wayne County after Detroit Recorder's Court Judge Thomas Jackson said he had shown "utter contempt and flagrant violation" of the law by continuing to assist suicides. Kevorkian staged a hunger strike, and after three days an unsympathetic Detroit attorney put up $2,000 bail in an effort to minimize the publicity Kevorkian was getting while in jail.
A January trial date has been scheduled in the August death of Thomas Hyde, 30, who had Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian was also present when police responded to a call at the Redford Township home of Donald O'Keefe, 73, a retired tool and die maker who suffered from bone cancer before taking his own life.
So far, two Michigan judges have upheld the ban on assisted suicides and one has overturned it. The law remains in effect while the Michigan Court of Appeals reviews it.
Kevorkian faces up to four years in prison and a $2,000 fine for each conviction.
"I had hoped long ago that Dr. Kevorkian would stop violating the law and would become a more positive advocate for his cause," O'Hair, the Wayne County prosecutor, said. "I think he has become counterproductive. The focus is on him instead of on the debate and discussion about assisted suicide. He's not helping the matter at all."