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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Challenges Michigan Assisted Suicide Law; Case Filed on Behalf of Cancer Patients, Doctors FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 1, 1993 DETROIT -- Acting to protect personal rights and freedoms, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today challenged the state's assisted suicide law. The challenge, filed this afternoon in Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit, is being taken on behalf of two terminally ill cancer patients and several well-respected doctors. (Dr. Jack Kevorkian is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.) This is an area in which the state must respect our personal freedom and autonomy," said Howard Simon, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "No government official or private organization should be able to dictate how much pain and suffering we must endure before being allowed to bring an end to our life." The ACLU asked the Court to declare the law unconstitutional under both the Michigan and United States Constitutions. The ACLU also asked the Court to issue a preliminary injunction to enjoin the state from enforcing the law while a challenge is pending. In the next few days, the ACLU will be asking the court for preliminary injunctive relief to block the Legislature's attempt to put the law into "immediate effect." Based upon the opinions of two Michigan Attorneys General (including the current Attorney General in an unrelated matter in 1976), ACLU attorneys will argue that immediate effect cannot be given to a law or amendments to a law that were passed in a previous session of the legislature without immediate effect. The lawsuit says that the assisted suicide law violates the due process clauses of the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions in addition to the general right of privacy recognized in the Michigan Constitution. "Our Constitutions protect the right of competent adults to make decisions about the voluntary termination of their lives," said Elizabeth Gleicher, an ACLU cooperating attorney who is the lead counsel in the assisted suicide challenge. "This is a fundamental constitutional right that must have the strongest protection from our courts." The parties to the ACLU lawsuit include Teresa Hobbins and Kenneth Shapiro, both of whom are cancer patients. The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of a group of respected Michigan doctors and health care professionals representing virtually every field of medicine that treats terminally and chronically ill patients. (See attached list of plaintiffs for more information on plaintiffs in the lawsuit.) The life stories of both Hobbins and Shapiro vividly demonstrate the human side of this ill-conceived and unconstitutional law. Shapiro, for example, is a 5O-year-old resident of East Lansing who was diagnosed in 1982 with malignant melanoma and has since had approximately 5O surgeries. Many of his treatments have been classified as experimental and therefore risky. Shapiro said that he feels the assisted suicide law will make prosecutors a large part of the medical equation. "My doctors will have to wonder if they will be prosecuted for taking a certain course of action that could conceivably lead to my death," Shapiro said. Hobbins, a 42-year-old Lansing mother of three, has had multiple myeloma, a severe blood disease, for the last six years. "I fight, I cry and I work at it," she said. "But when the time comes and disease has got me and there isn't anything more I or anyone else can do, I want to have all options available to me -- including assisted suicide." The doctors and other health care professionals who have agreed to participate in the lawsuit cover virtually every field that treats terminally ill patients, including an oncologist, a rheumatologist, a hematologist, a pharmacist, a psychiatrist, an internist and the Chief of Staff of a major hospital in Detroit. Saying that he fears the law will affect medical judgments, Kenneth Weinberger, M.D., a Rheumatologist, is participating in the lawsuit because he believes that "no one should be forced to lie in agony awaiting death because of someone else's morals." "It is appropriate for the state to regulate assisted suicides, but not to outlaw them," he said. Largely in reaction to the activities of one man, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan Legislature and Governor pushed through a law that makes physician-assisted suicide a felony that can be punished with a four-year prison term. The law, which was made effective immediately last week, also prohibits the assistance of any licensed health professional, family member or friend in a patient's decision to end his or her life. In addition to challenging the law under the privacy and due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions, the ACLU also alleges that the way the law was enacted violates several Michigan constitutional provisions regarding legislative process. "This is such a personal issue that it must transcend normal political wrangling," the ACLU's Simon said. "This is an area where the government and private interest groups do not belong -- it is a decision that must be left to patients, their families and their doctors." FACT SHEET Detroit - Following are the names and short descriptions of the plaintiffs in A. v. Attorney General Of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan's challenge to the state's assisted suicide law. Teresa Hobbins, a 42-year-old Lansing mother of three. Hobbins has had Multiple Myelomla, a terminal blood cancer, for six years and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Kenneth A. Shapiro, a 50-year-old resident of East Lansing. Shapiro, the author of a 1985 work titled Dying and Living: One Man's Life with Cancer, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the Spring of 1977. He has since had approximately 50 surgeries and treatments including radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Norman Bolton, M.D., is a general surgeon and Chief of Staff of Sinai Hospital. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Sinai Hospital and a former Chairman of the Michigan Board of Medicine. William Drake, Pharm D.,is a Professor of Pharmacy at Wayne State University. He is also a pharmacist who oversees a large operation that dispenses drugs, especially pain alleviating medicine, to terminally ill patients, the elderly and those residing in hospices. D. Elliot Grysen, M.D., is a licensed physician and attorney practicing law in Michigan. He has emergency medical experience at several hospitals in Michigan and Illinois. He is President and Medical Director of MEDPROBE Inc., a medico-legal consulting firm. Elliot D. Luby, M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry and Law in both the Schools of Medicine and Law of Wayne State University. He is the Emeritus Chief of Psychiatry at Harper Hospital. He is a member of the Department of Psychiatry at the hospital and a practicing, psychiatrist. Ken Tuckers M.D., is an Oncologist and Hematologist who has been in private practice for more than 25 years. He is on the Senior Attending Staff of Detroit Memorial and Macomb Hospital Center. Catherine Upton, M.D. is the Senior Staff Physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital. She is also the President of the Michigan Society of Internal Medicine. Kenneth A. Weinberger, M.D., is a Senior Associate at the Detroit Macomb Hospital Corporation. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Rheumatology, at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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