People v. Kevorkian

447 Mich. 436, 527 N.W.2d 714 (1994)

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People v. Kevorkian

Michigan Supreme Court
447 Mich. 436, 527 N.W.2d 714 (1994)

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Facts

Marjorie Wantz suffered from a painful condition. Sherry Miller suffered from a painful and disabling condition. Each woman separately requested assistance from physician Jack Kevorkian (defendant) in ending their lives. Kevorkian provided the women with what was called a suicide machine. This machine was set up by inserting a needle attached to tubing into the patient and tying strings to the patient’s fingers. The patient could give herself a barbiturate by raising a hand. After the patient fell asleep, the patient’s hand would drop and cause the machine to release potassium chloride into her veins, stopping her heart. Kevorkian attached the machine to Wantz, who used it to kill herself. Kevorkian was unable to get a needle into Miller’s arm. Kevorkian obtained a cylinder of carbon monoxide and a mask and showed Miller how to use them. Miller opened the cylinder herself and died of carbon-monoxide poisoning. Kevorkian was indicted on two counts of murder. The trial court dismissed the charges on the grounds that assisting with a suicide was not murder. The appellate court reversed. Kevorkian appealed. After Kevorkian was indicted, the state passed a statute specifically making assisted suicide a criminal offense. The Michigan Supreme Court combined appeals about that statute’s constitutionality with Kevorkian’s appeal regarding the two murder charges.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cavanagh, C.J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Boyle, J.)

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