Kevorkian Admits He Assisted in Suicide
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) _ Dr. Jack Kevorkian said he helped a 30-year-old man with Lou Gehrig’s disease kill himself Wednesday, his first such admission since a state law banning assisted suicide took effect in February.
″I assisted Thomas Hyde in a merciful suicide. There’s no doubt about that. I state it emphatically,″ Kevorkian told reporters outside his lawyer’s Southfield office. ″I will always do so when a patient needs it, because I’m a physician.″
Hyde, 30, of Novi, inhaled carbon monoxide on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River, said Kevorkian attorney Geoffrey Fieger. Hyde suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Kevorkian said the disease advanced unusually quickly.
It was the second time Kevorkian has been present at a suicide since the new state ban took effect. In the May 16 death of a Southfield man, Kevorkian’s lawyers said only that he was present, a change from descriptions of him assisting suicides in most previous cases. No charges have been brought.
The new Michigan law, passed last year in response to Kevorkian, imposes a penalty of up to four years in prison and a $2,000 fine for violators.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Stevens overturned the law on technical grounds on May 20. But the state Court of Appeals blocked Stevens’ ruling in June while it reviews the case.
Kevorkian thrashed the medical profession for not taking a stand on the issue.
″They’re politicians first, businessmen second and they ought to be ashamed of themselves to have human beings like Thomas Hyde suffer immensely, unable to move any muscle, cannot speak, cannot swallow, have pain in addition to all that, and they turn their heads because ’We’ve got to discuss this a little more,‴ Kevorkian said.
″The world knows there’s a need for this. The talk is senseless, pointless, there’s nothing new to be said about this.″
Dr. Thomas Payne, immediate past president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said Kevorkian ″definitely violated the law.″
″Most physicians believe that as long as there’s life, there’s hope,″ Payne said. ″As far as I’m concerned, he’s just gone too far. He’s drawing that line in the sand.″
Police Inspector Gerald Stewart refused to discuss the investigation of Hyde’s death other than to say Kevorkian was questioned and released.
″If we come up with the elements necessary to proceed with charges, we will,″ Stewart said.
Wayne County Prosecutor John O’Hair said that in addition to considering whether the law was broken in deciding whether to press charges, his office would consider the chances of the state law being overturned.
Neighbors at Hyde’s townhouse complex about 30 miles west of Detroit said he used a wheelchair and appeared depressed earlier this week. He apparently shared the apartment with his wife and daughter, but no one answered the door Wednesday.
David Wasielewski, 27, said he lived next door for about a year but had only a nodding acquaintance with him. He said he saw Hyde returning to his apartment Tuesday.
″We made eye contact and I waved to him,″ Wasielewski said. ″But he looked really depressed. He was staring into space. Usually, he looks good. I don’t believe this.″
Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, helped an Oregon woman commit suicide in 1990 and since has crusaded for doctor-assisted suicide for some terminally ill people.
Paul Denenfeld, legal director of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said prosecuting Kevorkian in Hyde’s death would be difficult. The ACLU has challenged the state law on behalf of two terminal cancer patients, a pharmacist and six doctors.
″Dr. Kevorkian has the ability the exercise his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to make a statement to police,″ Denenfeld said. ″It would be up to authorities to prove Dr. Kevorkian committed a crime before he could be charged.″
Denenfeld said simply watching a suicide doesn’t violate the law.