A jury here Tuesday acquitted Jack Kevorkian of criminal charges that he helped two women kill themselves in 1991, a verdict that Kevorkian immediately declared should legitimize the practice of physician-assisted suicide in Michigan and elsewhere.
“I now consider this a legitimate medical service,” Kevorkian said shortly after a jury, for the third time, refused to find him guilty of a crime. The 67-year-old retired pathologist who has become known as “Dr. Death” added that “the time has come for the medical profession to come forward and set down the guidelines on how this is going to be done.”
The verdict comes during heightened national debate about the cause of physician-assisted suicide, which Kevorkian has championed since he began the practice in 1990. He has helped 28 people to commit suicide since. Two federal appeals courts recently struck down state laws that banned assisted suicide on the grounds that they are an unconstitutional infringement on the right of mentally competent, terminally ill adults to have a “humane and dignified death.”
Richard Thompson, the elected Oakland County prosecutor, suggested that he will not hesitate to prosecute Kevorkian again.
“The result of a prosecutor refusing to enforce the law because of a public opinion poll or because we lost two cases would mean basically anarchy,” he said.