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Michigan Psychiatrist Joins Kevorkian, Witnessed 5 Deaths

July 29, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Michigan psychiatrist said Monday he had witnessed Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s last five assisted suicides and would continue to help Kevorkian judge the mental status of people who seek his help in dying.

``The five people I saw die, their serenity was so beautiful,″ said an emotional Dr. George Reding. ``It’s very beautiful and it’s full of sorrow.″

Reding said he joined Kevorkian because he was ``embarrassed by the cowardice of my profession″ in not supporting patients who seek suicide.

A frequent criticism of Kevorkian is that his patients would not choose death if they were properly treated for depression and pain.

``It’s not clear that depression particularly is being adequately diagnosed,″ said Dr. Paul Kettl of Penn State University, a psychiatrist running for Congress. With better care, ``assisted suicide would not be necessary.″

Reding, a member of a small group called Physicians for Mercy that offered Kevorkian patient guidelines, said he hopes to ensure that people with treatable depression are ``not mixed up with despair.″

Reding spoke briefly here Monday after Kevorkian and his attorney addressed the National Press Club, but the psychiatrist declined to answer questions.

Outside, about half a dozen people protested with signs saying ``killing is not the answer.″ ``Stop murdering the elderly and the handicapped,″ chanted one dressed in a Halloween death mask. Opponents call Kevorkian ``Dr. Death.″

``Pass any law you want, I don’t care,″ Kevorkian said, attacking critics _ particularly religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II _ as unethical for opposing his efforts to alleviate patients’ suffering.

``I know what’s right, I’m going to do what’s right,″ Kevorkian added.

Kevorkian, 68, acknowledges attending 33 suicides since 1990, including a 39-year-old California woman whose death this month generated new controversy when a medical examiner said she did not have advanced multiple sclerosis and had been in ``far, far better shape″ than other Kevorkian patients.

Kevorkian didn’t directly address Rebecca Badger’s death Monday, but attorney Geoffrey Fieger blasted the criticisms, saying Badger had been treated for MS symptoms and pain for 11 years.

Kevorkian has been cleared in three trials of criminal wrongdoing, and this month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dissolve a Michigan court’s injunction prohibiting him from helping people commit suicide.

Kevorkian said Monday he doesn’t expect the high court to hear his case because ``they’re cowards.″

Also Monday, Kevorkian unveiled a new series of public service announcements on AIDS that Fieger said will be televised nationally later this year.

``People who have sex and don’t use condoms″ are killing themselves, Kevorkian says in one ad urging safe sex to protect against the fatal AIDS virus.

``Why perfectly healthy people would want to commit suicide is beyond me,″ Kevorkian says in another ad.

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