The Strange Case of Dr. Death

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One man kills another on national television. What do the authorities do next? Answer: Very little. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who has admitted helping over 130 terminally ill patients end their lives, threw down the gauntlet to prosecutors Sunday after CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a tape in which Kevorkian commits the act himself. "Either they go," he said, "or I go." Kevorkian has been tried and acquitted three times on assisted suicide charges; his lawyer says he now wants to force a "high noon" confrontation with the police. If convicted, the self-styled Dr. Death says he will starve himself to death in jail.

If a confrontation was what he wanted, Kevorkian must have been very unhappy with the low-key reaction from law enforcement officials. Despite ruling the death a homicide some weeks ago, local police in Michigan have yet to interview the 70-year-old doctor. "I'm not going to make a decision based solely on what's aired on TV," said Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca before watching the show. Meanwhile, some of Kevorkian's friends have expressed concern about this stand he's trying to take. "I think he's actually under the belief that he's not simply a doctor now," said longtime Kevorkian lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, adding that the doctor wouldn't do anybody any good by "martyring himself" now. There is, however, no justice more poetic than a euthanasia doctor ending his career by his own hand.