Assisting Suicide in Michigan
Bioethics. 1996 Jan; 10(1): 56-70.
Perhaps no American state has seen more legal activity on assisting suicide than Michigan, but despite legislation, a study Commission, several legal cases and a state Supreme Court ruling, the state seems much further from a humane resolution of the question than when the activities of Dr. Jack Kevorkian began in June of 1990. This note summarizes major legal events over a twelve-month period (ending May '95), which included jury acquittal of Dr. Kevorkian, the inconclusive report of the Michigan Commission on Death and Dying, the failure of the state legislature to enact legislation to replace the expired absolute but temporary prohibition, and the decision of the Michigan Supreme Court in Mich. v. Kevorkian declaring assisting suicide a common law felony and ruling that in certain circumstances a person assisting suicide can be prosecuted for murder. The Commission's model decriminalization proposal and the bills subsequently introduced in the legislature (all of which to varying degrees surrounded assisting suicide with restrictions and safeguards), as well as the decision of the Supreme Court, are discussed. Certain puzzling features of the latter, especially with regard to the kind of causation that can turn helping another commit suicide into murder are noted.