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For `Dr. Death,´ a lonely plea

Toledo Blade, OH
Jan 1 2006

Few people have ever worked harder at getting sent to prison than
Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who made physician-assisted
suicide a national issue in the 1990s.

After being acquitted of violating laws against assisted suicide in
a series of spectacular trials, he switched to euthanasia, videotaped
it, and sent the proof to Mike Wallace, who aired it on 60 Minutes.

Kevorkian then fired the flamboyant Geoffrey Fieger, his longtime
lawyer, tried to defend himself, and was convicted of second-degree
murder in 1999. That was the first time he had been convicted of a
major offense, and the judge threw the book at him, giving the elderly
man a sentence - 10 to 25 years - far in excess of normal guidelines.

That was nearly seven years ago. Since then, Kevorkian has renounced
assisted suicide, vowing to never again get involved with helping
people die once he is released.

Recently his new lawyer asked that his sentence be commuted to time
served, citing the 77-year-old's advancing age and a variety of
ailments, from Hepatitis C to high blood pressure. But the Michigan
parole board voted 7-2 to keep him locked up until at least June,
2007, when he will be first be eligible for normal parole.

Mayer Morgenroth, "Dr. Death's" attorney, doesn't think his client will
live that long, and has asked Gov. Jennifer Granholm to override their
recommendation and commute his sentence. That would be politically
risky for her; she faces a tough re-election battle, and Republicans
would love to be able to accuse her of turning loose a man many of
them see as a serial killer.

Nevertheless, commuting Jack Kevorkian's sentence now would be
a correct thing to do, as well as a brave one. Men who kill their
spouses and try to deny it frequently serve less time than Jack
Kevorkian has. His "victim" in this case was a dying man who came to
him and begged for help in ending his life before he choked helplessly
on his own saliva.

Kevorkian, offensive as his methods were, as jarring as his personality
could be, had the courage of his convictions, and has paid a price
for them.

He says he wants to devote the rest of his life to writing and trying
to change the laws, and he should be given a chance. He would also
have to agree that if he breaks his word, he'll be tossed back in
prison to resume serving his full sentence.

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