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Kevorkian Testifies in Assisted-Suicide Trial

April 27, 1994 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ Dr. Jack Kevorkian took the stand today at his assisted-suicide trial, testifying that 30-year-old Thomas Hyde was unwavering in his desire to kill himself and end his suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Kevorkian said he reminded Hyde just before Hyde inhaled carbon monoxide Aug. 4 that he could still change his mind.

″Those were the last words I said to him,″ Kevorkian said of Hyde, left unable to walk, talk or feed himself by the degenerative and invariably fatal disease of the nervous system.

″I’m there to do what’s best for the patient, and if that’s against his will, that’s not best for the patient,″ Kevorkian said.

Defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger had said as he entered court this morning he didn’t expect Kevorkian to testify, but then called the retired pathologist to the stand late this morning.

Kevorkian said his mission is to end needless suffering - not to hasten death. He described how he determines whether suicide is appropriate for a particular patient, studying medical records and discussing the decision with the relatives and friends.

″I determine if the patient is a real solid candidate,″ Kevorkian said. He tries to contact the physician treating the person, Kevorkian said. ″Some won’t even answer the phone.″

Witnesses testified Tuesday that Kevorkian was only trying to relieve Hyde’s suffering when he hooked him up to a canister of carbon monoxide, even though death was the inevitable result.

″There was no cure for this man,″ Dr. Stanley Levy, an internist at Sinai Hospital in Detroit, testified Tuesday. ″I think the relief would be effective and permanent.″

The defense claims Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide allows doctors to prescribe medication to relieve suffering, even if it hastens death.

The prosecutions contends that that loophole is for doctors prescribing experimental medication for terminally ill people, and that carbon monoxide is a poison, not a medication.

A Michigan psychiatrist, Dr. David Schwartz, testified Tuesday that carbon monoxide has therapeutic value because it ends pain. And Dr. Barry Bialek, an emergency room doctor from Toronto, said, ″If I had it available, and I was in a similar situation, yes, I would use it.″

If convicted, Kevorkian, 65, could get four years in prison and a $2,000 fine.

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Earlier Tuesday, Neal Nicol, the man who supplies Kevorkian with canisters of carbon monoxide, testified he drove Hyde to a parking lot behind Kevorkian’s apartment, where he presumes Hyde died in the back of Kevorkian’s parked van.

Afterward, Nicol said, he followed Kevorkian to Belle Isle in Detroit, where Kevorkian parked and Nicol drove away.

Nicol’s testimony bolstered defense claims that Hyde died in Oakland County, not in neighboring Wayne County, where the trial is being held.

On Monday, Judge Thomas E. Jackson refused to dismiss the charges, rejecting a defense argument that the case is being tried in the wrong county. Jackson said he would let the jury decide.

Kevorkian testified today he didn’t want the body found in Oakland County because authorities there once put him against a wall and slapped handcuffs on him.

″I wanted to avoid the strongarm tactics of the Oakland County authorities,″ Kevorkian said.