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State Suspends Kevorkian's Medical License

April 28, 1993|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Saying that Dr. Jack Kevorkian poses a clear and present danger to the people of California, an administrative law judge on Tuesday suspended the state medical license of the Michigan physician who admits having assisted in 15 suicides.

The suspension means that Kevorkian--who had been licensed in California and Michigan--can no longer legally practice medicine anywhere in the country. His Michigan medical license was suspended in 1991, but since then, he admits having assisted 12 people in killing themselves.

His attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, said later that Kevorkian "couldn't care less" about losing his California license and "will go on assisting people commit suicide. He dares that California judge to come catch him."

Kevorkian, 64, who obtained a California medical license in 1957 and who worked from 1979 to 1982 at two hospitals in Long Beach, has the right to a full hearing within 30 days. State authorities said they hope to have the license revoked.

In 1991, authorities suspended Kevorkian's right to practice medicine in his home state of Michigan, where the suicides of four men and 11 women have taken place, including those of two Californians earlier this year.

Kevorkian, who did not appear in San Diego, is appealing the suspension in Michigan.

Administrative Law Judge Alan S. Meth said Tuesday that the matter before him was not a judgment on euthanasia or one of "sympathy, morality or religion." But rather, Meth ruled, "Doctors simply do not assist people . . . in committing suicide."

Fieger, the head of the Michigan law firm representing Kevorkian, said no appeal will be filed, if only because Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, has no desire to practice medicine in California or to even visit the state. He said Kevorkian last came to California in 1987.

"How do you appeal a jackass' ruling?" Fieger said. "He (the judge) has as much respect for the law as (the late Branch Davidian cult leader) David Koresh does. To decide that Jack Kevorkian poses a danger to the people of the state of California is such foolery to be beyond belief."

Fieger called the judge and the Medical Board of California "a religious cult on the order of Branch Davidian West. The only difference between the judge and David Koresh is that the judge probably shaves.

"We would prefer that the judge and the medical board burn themselves to death like the Branch Davidians. They'll go to hell anyway, so they might as well do it sooner. But since they're in California, they can't go to hell, because they're already there."

Deputy Atty. Gen. Thomas Lazar, who represented the state at Tuesday's hearing, called Fieger's statements "contemptuous, and as the public should judge themselves, full of meaningless rhetoric. I suppose that if you lose on every issue you might be inclined to make such ill-advised statements."

Among the state's key pieces of evidence was a videotape showing a 10-minute interview between Kevorkian and Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20." Kevorkian told Walters, in the March 12 interview, that "soon . . . probably" within the next few weeks, he would once again assist people in killing themselves.

The judge asked Michael Alan Schwartz, who argued Kevorkian's case, if he had seen the videotape.

"Yes," Schwartz said, "and I was totally surprised by how well Jack can play the flute."

The judge, who wore a bemused expression during much of Schwartz's presentation, which was largely a defense of euthanasia, said later that the tape had left no doubt about the seriousness of Kevorkian's intentions and that he plans to assist others in ending their lives.

He agreed with the state's contention that as long as Kevorkian is able to represent himself as a licensed physician, the public, in Lazar's words, "erroneously believes that he is offering them sort sort of special medical expertise."

"We no longer want him referred to as Dr. Kevorkian," Lazar said. "In medical circles, as well as in the media, he ought to be known as Mr. Jack Kevorkian, for he isn't a doctor."

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