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Bill Aims to Thwart Assisted Suicides

<i> From Associated Press</i>

After four years of watching Dr. Jack Kevorkian take part in dozens of suicides, the Michigan Legislature has passed a bill aimed at stopping him.

It approved a ban Thursday on assisted suicide, and Gov. John Engler said he will sign it.

Effective Sept. 1, the legislation would make assisted suicide a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Kevorkian reacted defiantly to the passage of the bill.

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“Don’t you know you cannot legislate morality? You cannot do that,” he told the Oakland Press of Pontiac in a story published Friday.

“Tell them we will go to trial immediately after that law goes into effect. The Michigan Legislature is a tool of the Inquisition. It is a lie. They would burn us at the stake if it wasn’t for a jury,” he said.

Prosecutors have been asking the Legislature for a clear law ever since a temporary ban on assisted suicide lapsed four years ago.

The measure “ought to put Jack Kevorkian out of business and end that sorry spectacle that’s been playing out these many years,” Engler said.

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State Sen. William Van Regenmorter said: “This is an important step in our efforts to protect the people of Michigan from the gruesome works of Jack Kevorkian and others like him.”

However, Wayne County Prosecutor John O’Hair said the law would help prosecutors in only some cases because juries may still sympathize with terminally ill patients leading miserable lives.

O’Hair unsuccessfully tried Kevorkian in 1994. It was a case in which he had Kevorkian confessing on television to assisting in a suicide. The jury acquitted him anyway.

“The problem with Jack Kevorkian is, he’s been careful not to leave behind a prosecutable case,” O’Hair said.

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Kevorkian has acknowledged assisting in more than 100 suicides since 1990. He has been brought to trial four times in six deaths since 1990 and escaped conviction every time.

Two trials were based on the now-expired suicide law that had been passed specifically to stop him.

A third was based on a 1994 Michigan Supreme Court ruling that assisted suicide could be prosecuted under common law--the traditions and precedents that are the foundation of much of modern law.

A fourth case ended in a mistrial.

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“I think he has demonstrated he is going to defy the law and authority,” O’Hair said. “I don’t think making this ban effective Sept. 1 or tomorrow is going to stop him.”


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