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Kevorkian Takes Stand, Stresses Desire To End Suffering

March 1, 1996

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Dr. Jack Kevorkian took the stand for the first time at his assisted suicide trial today, saying he sometimes cries after he watches people die but feels obligated to help people who are suffering.

``My desire is to aid this suffering human being as I would any suffering entity,″ he said. ``When I wince at the suffering, I must do something. Even if I didn’t wince, as a physician, I must do something.″

Kevorkian, responding to questions from his attorney, said he had never wanted his patients to die, and said he had persuaded a number of them to seek another solution rather than suicide.

``My sole desire is actually fulfilled by many of them,″ he said. ``I talk to them and convince them to go on with further treatment or something else and I’m delighted when they turn away.″

In fact, Kevorkian said he always reminds his patients that they can change their minds about suicide _ even at the last minute.

``My desire would be to see a patient pull the clip, and then take off the mask. I actually instruct them to do that. `Remember, you can take the mask off at the last instant. Even when you are getting drowsy, tear it off.′ They never do. They never even think of doing that.″

Kevorkian said it is difficult to watch his patients die.

``Is it my intent that they die, when in some cases tears are going down my cheeks? I hate to admit that because a doctor is supposed to be strong but I feel like a fool when I sit there sobbing after a couple of cases.″

Kevorkian’s attorney asked what he intends when assisting patients.

``That their suffering ended,″ he said. ``That’s the only relief that I have. But it isn’t enough to counter the negative emotional responses I have. It’s not nice to see a human life ended. But when the agony ended, it ameliorates the pain I feel.″

Kevorkian is charged with assisting in the suicides of Merian Frederick, 72, of Ann Arbor and Dr. Ali Khalili, 61, of Oak Brook, Ill. Both died of carbon monoxide poisoning in late 1993. Frederick was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease; Khalili had bone cancer.

If convicted, the retired pathologist faces up to four years in prison on each count.

Jurors were expected to begin deliberations late today or Monday after the state presents its rebuttal testimony.

Earlier today, longtime Kevorkian supporter Janet Good called him a ``very fine man″ and said she has referred many people wishing to die to Kevorkian, who often turned them down.

Good is a founder of the Michigan Hemlock Society, which advocates the right to commit suicide. She said Kevorkian made a strong impression on her when they met six years ago.

``I thought he was brilliant, very kind,″ Good said. ``He had impeccable manners. He was interested in people’s well-being. He was very compassionate.″

Kevorkian’s defense hinges largely on an exception in the law that exempts someone who gives medication or procedures intended to relieve pain and discomfort, even if they hasten death, as long as death was not intended.

Much of the questioning of witnesses over the past week of testimony has focused on whether Kevorkian’s role in providing carbon monoxide to terminally ill patients was intended primarily to kill them or relieve their pain.

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