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People v. Kevorkian

Michigan Supreme Court
527 N.W.2d 714 (1994)


Facts

Sherry Miller and Marjorie Wantz, two older women suffering from medical conditions which caused them great pain and/or was severely disabling, separately requested physician Kevorkian’s (defendant) assistance in ending their lives. In a cabin, Kevorkian planned to use his “suicide machine” to cause the deaths. The device consisted of a board to which one arm was strapped to prevent movement, a needle attached to IV tubing was inserted into the arm, and contained various chemicals that would be released. Strings were tied to two fingers of the person intending to die. The strings were attached to clips on the IV tubing that controlled the flow of the chemicals. The person raised a hand releasing anesthesia and when she fell asleep, the hand would fall, pulling the other string allowing the deadly chemicals to enter the body’s bloodstream and causing death. Kevorkian unsuccessfully attempted to insert the needle into Miller’s arm and hand. He then left the cabin and returned later with a cylinder of carbon monoxide gas and a mask. Kevorkian instructed Miller on how to use the cylinder. Miller released the carbon monoxide gas and breathed it in until she died. Kevorkian then assisted Wantz by successfully inserting the needle into her arm. Wantz was then able to use the device to release the chemicals causing her death. Kevorkian was indicted on two counts of murder roughly a year before the state enacted a statute prohibiting assisted suicide. The circuit judge dismissed the indictment, concluding that assisting in suicide did not fall within the crime of murder. The court of appeals reversed, and Kevorkian appealed to the state’s supreme court.

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Holding and Reasoning (Cavanagh, C.J.)

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Concurrence

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