Police: Kevorkian Present at Suicide No. 18
DETROIT (AP) _ Hours after being ordered to stand trial for helping a man kill himself, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was on hand at another suicide, the 18th at which he has been present, police said today.
Redford Township police answering a 911 call about a suicide in the Detroit suburb went to a home Thursday night to find Kevorkian and the body of Donald O’Keefe, Lt. Michael Kosla said. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Kevorkian wasn’t immediately arrested and his exact role in the death wasn’t disclosed.
Neighbors said O’Keefe, 73, was a retired Ford Motor Co. worker suffering from bone cancer.
″He ached all over. He couldn’t walk,″ said Marie Ptak, who lives next door. ″The man was suffering something awful. I’m just glad he’s not going to suffer any more.″ Wayne County Prosecutor Assistant Prosecutor Tim Kenny scheduled a meeting later this morning with Redford police. Kenny said the office was trying to determine whether to charge Kevorkian again.
He also said the office might seek to raise Kevorkian’s $100,000 bond.
″If we can establish that he did participate and assist, we would certainly be seeking to get bond changed,″ Kenny said.
Calls to Kevorkian’s home rang unanswered today. His attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, called the possibility of increasing bond in order to jail Kevorkian outrageous.
″Who are we protecting?″ Fieger said on WWJ radio. ″If we put Dr. Kevorkian in jail, where would that leave Donald O’Keefe? He would be laying in bed, screaming in agony, being fed through an intravenous tube.″
Fieger refused to detail the circumstances of O’Keefe’s death.
Earlier Thursday, District Judge Willie G. Lipscomb Jr. rejected a challenge to Michigan’s law against assisted suicide and ordered Kevorkian to stand trial for helping Thomas Hyde, a 30-year-old victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, kill himself.
Kevorkian admitted putting a carbon monoxide mask over Hyde’s face Aug. 4 in the back of Kevorkian’s van, and he practically begged prosecutors to charge him. O’Hair, who has said he disagrees with the law, grudgingly obliged last month.
″As long as there’s one suffering patient, if one person supports me, I would still do this,″ Kevorkian said Thursday before the latest suicide. ″I couldn’t live with myself otherwise because it’s right.″
In rejecting a challenge to the law, Lipscomb said he sympathized with terminally ill people seeking a way to end their suffering, and he called Kevorkian ″very courageous.″ ″It would be very difficult for many of us to say there isn’t some right to say how we can leave here,″ the judge said.
But he added, ″It’s important to make a distinction between what we believe personally and what we understand the law to read at this time.″
Arraignment was set for Sept. 24. No immediate trial date was set.
A separate challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is pending before a state appeals court. Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but the state Court of Appeals reinstated it in June while it considers the appeal.
The law, which took effect in February, was rushed through the Legislature last year to stop Kevorkian, who first helped someone commit suicide in 1990. The law carries up to four years in prison and a $2,000 fine.