LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Board of Medicine on Wednesday suspended the medical license of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who helped three women kill themselves in the last two years.
The board voted, 8 to 0, to suspend Kevorkian's license even though the retired pathologist, dubbed "Dr. Death," has said he would continue to assist suicides suicide even if he lost his license.
"It is clear that suicide is not a medically accepted and approved practice," said Dr. Ananda Prasad, a board member.
One of Kevorkian's attorneys, Michael Schwartz, said Kevorkian could continue to help people kill themselves. "Dr. Kevorkian can do anything that any unlicensed human being can do if asked for advice," he said.
Another board member, Dr. Emma Jane Conklin, said that if Kevorkian, 63, should assist another suicide it could be interpreted as practicing medicine without a license and leave him open to criminal charges.
Kevorkian, who was not available for comment Wednesday, first came to authorities' attention in June, 1990, after he helped an Alzheimer's patient, Janet Adkins, of Portland, Ore., die by hooking her up to a "suicide machine" he invented. Adkins pushed a button to give herself a lethal injection.
A murder charge against Kevorkian was dismissed when the judge found that Michigan has no law against aiding a suicide. The court barred him from assisting suicides in Oakland County.
In October, however, Kevorkian summoned police to an Oakland County cabin about 40 miles north of Detroit, where he had helped two women commit suicide.
Sherry Miller, 43, of Roseville, was suffering from multiple sclerosis; Marjorie Wantz, 58, of Sodus, had a painful but not life-threatening pelvic disease.
Wantz gave herself a lethal injection by using a device similar to the one Adkins used. Miller inhaled carbon monoxide through a mask.
The Oakland County prosecutor's office is investigating the deaths, but has brought no new charges against Kevorkian.
Dr. Philip Margolis abstained from the board vote Wednesday. He said the medical, ethical and legal issues were too complex to be resolved by a summary suspension of Kevorkian's license.
"I think, at least from my point of view, there is no immediate menace to his activities," Margolis said. "This is a very complex issue, which will take a lot of thought on everybody's part, whether it be the Legislature or us or whomever."
Conklin said the board could not wait for a full investigation.