'Doctor Death' hunger strike

  • @dusborne
WASHINGTON - For three years they have called him 'Doctor Death', but now the epithet is taking on new meaning, writes David Usborne. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who specialises in helping the chronically ill to take their own lives, is himself facing his maker. Jailed on Friday, he is on a protest hunger strike.

The incarceration of Dr Kevorkian, 65, marked the climax of his long and bitter stand-off with the State of Michigan, which passed a law last February outlawing doctor- assisted suicides. Since the law's adoption, the doctor has openly defied the state. Altogether he has been present at 19 deaths, the last in October.

Ordered in a Detroit courtroom to post bail of dollars 20,000 ( pounds 13,500) in the case of the death of a 30-year-old landscape gardener in August, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Dr Kevorkian refused. After waving to supporters, he instantly went limp, forcing officers to drag him like a doll from before the judge. In a court ante-room, he lay prone on the floor until being placed in a wheelchair and put in a vehicle for the transfer to prison.

'He will not co-operate with his captors,' a lawyer for Dr Kevorkian, Geoffrey Fieger, insisted. 'Dr Kevorkian will be carried every place . . . His life is at an end.'

Dr Kevorkian is slight in build, and the Detroit sheriff's office warned that it would force-feed him rather than let him die.