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Charging Kevorkian A Waste of Taxpayer Money, Prosecutor Says

By Edward Walsh
The Washington Post
CHICAGO

The Republican candidate for the job of chief prosecutor in Oakland County, Mich., where Jack Kevorkian has assisted in 10 suicides since his acquittal on criminal charges in May, said Friday that he will not prosecute Kevorkian unless the Michigan state legislature arms him with an "enforceable" law banning physician-assisted suicide.

David Gorcyca, who defeated incumbent prosecutor Richard Thompson in a Republican primary earlier this month, said that while Kevorkian "really pushed the envelope" with one of his most recent assisted suicides, attempts to prosecute him on criminal charges would "just waste a lot of time, prosecutorial resources and taxpayer money."

Kevorkian, 68, a retired pathologist, has been present at 38 suicides since 1990, including four in the last nine days, two of them on Thursday. His increasingly aggressive tactics have inflamed the debate over physician-assisted suicide, increasing pressure on Michigan authorities to act on the issue.

At its headquarters here, the American Medical Association announced Friday that it has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the issue by overturning two recent federal appeals court rulings that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have a constitutional right to help in ending their lives. Legalization of physician-assisted suicide, the AMA said in a legal brief, would have a "profound and harmful impact on the trust between physician and patient." The high court has not yet decided whether to review either of the appeals court rulings.

Kevorkian has been acquitted of criminal charges three times, once in Detroit and twice in suburban Oakland County north of Detroit, which Gorcyca described Friday as "the suicide mecca of the world." But Gorcyca's successful primary campaign was based largely on his charge that Thompson had wasted taxpayers' money in his two prosecutions of Kevorkian, a position he reiterated Friday.

"I believe it would be fruitless," he said, noting that public opinion polls show that Oakland County residents, who would make up the jury in a new Kevorkian trial, strongly oppose his prosecution.

Gorcyca's Democratic opponent in November, Steven Kaplan, did not respond to a message to his office, but he, too, has declared that "there will be no more Kevorkian prosecutions" because "juries will not convict Kevorkian."

The case in which Gorcyca said Kevorkian "pushed the envelope" involved the suicide last week of Judith Curren, 42, a registered nurse from Pembroke, Mass., who was overweight and suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. Oakland County Medical Examiner L.J. Dragovic has ruled that Curren did not suffer from a terminal illness.