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Judge: Inmate May Refuse Insulin, Starve to Death

April 18, 1996

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Prison officials can’t force-feed or treat a diabetic inmate who stopped taking insulin and dropped 70 pounds when he quit eating, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Michael E. Anderson, 47, said he no longer saw a need to treat his diabetes or eat since he is serving a life term for murdering his mother’s ex-husband. He was convicted in 1975.

``I do not want to die. I do want to have a life,″ Anderson said in an affidavit. ``(But) I do not wish to use medical technology, or even food, to prolong my natural life sentence.″

Anderson stopped injecting himself with insulin to treat his diabetes in December. Several weeks later he stopped eating and did not eat for nearly 10 weeks, consuming only diet soda and water.

He was taken to a prison hospital and given intravenous feedings against his will. He began to eat in March when prison officials said they would force-feed him through a tube.

He lost 70 to 80 pounds and now weighs just under 160 pounds. Because of the weight loss, Anderson’s blood sugar level is under control and he no longer needs insulin.

``I would personally prefer to live out my life in a prison cell. Mr. Anderson has decided he would not,″ Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette said. ``In my opinion, Mr. Anderson has the right to refuse food. If the natural consequence is to not prolong his life, so be it.″

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Kulick said he was surprised by Collette’s decision and planned to recommend that the Department of Corrections appeal.

``This is about Mr. Anderson’s decision to starve himself to death, to commit suicide,″ Kulick said. ``There is a duty that exists on the part of the state to prevent suicide.″

Anderson has signed a form releasing the state from liability.

``This is not a hunger strike,″ he said. ``This is not a political statement, nor is it religiously based; it is simply a decision that I have made that I do not choose to put things into my own body that will prolong my suffering as an incarcerated person for life.″

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