Michigan Ban on Assisted Suicide Ok'd

Article excerpt

There is no constitutional right to assisted suicide, and Michigan's ban on the practice is constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling came on four combined cases, three of them involving criminal charges against Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has been present at 21 deaths since 1990, the last on Nov. 26. The fourth was a civil challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two cancer patients and some medical professionals.

In a ruling that made a distinction between murder and assisted suicide, the justices overturned part of a Michigan Supreme Court decision from 1920 in which a man was convicted of first-degree murder for giving his terminally ill wife a glass of poison, which she had requested.

The court rejected the definition of murder as "the act of intentionally providing the means by which a person commits suicide."

"Only where there is probable cause to believe that death was the direct and natural result of a defendant's act" can a person properly be charged with murder, the court wrote.

"Where a defendant merely is involved in the events leading up to the death, such as providing the means, the proper charge is assisting in a suicide. …