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Jack Kevorkian Trials: 1994-99

Assisted Suicide Also Debated On West Coast

On May 2, 1994, a Michigan jury acquitted Kevorkian of criminal charges in assisting the suicide of Thomas Hyde, a young man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. The next day, in Seattle, U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein ruled in a suit brought by three terminally ill patients, five doctors, and Compassion in Dying—an organization that supports those who seek help to commit suicide. The judge found that a Washington state law that made helping a suicide a felony offense was unconstitutional. Under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she decided that adults who are terminally ill and mentally competent have a right to doctor-assisted suicide. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court, finding that Compassion in Dying arguments were not convincing, upheld the Ninth Circuit Court decision.

Election day, November 8, 1994, found Oregon voters in favor of a law permitting doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who ask for them. Scheduled to take effect December 8, the law required the patient to ask for the prescription at least twice orally and once in writing, with a lapse of at least 15 days between the first request and the prescription date. The new law was immediately challenged by a coalition of patients, doctors, and other healthcare providers. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan put the law on hold while its constitutional aspects could be reviewed. The law was upheld.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Jack Kevorkian Trials: 1994-99 - The Public Debate Over Assisted Suicide Begins, Michigan Suspends Kevorkian's License, The Severely Iii Ask Kevorkian For Help