Kevorkian denies blocking treatment for ill woman he helped die

November 29, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Dr. Jack Kevorkian angrily dismissed yesterday claims by two doctors who said he had refused to allow them to treat the pain of a woman whom he helped to commit suicide Saturday.

Suggesting that the doctors were primarily looking for publicity, Dr. Kevorkian said their help was not needed because the ailing woman was already receiving treatment for her pain.

"The woman's family didn't want to bother with them, and we had no need to contact them because the woman's own family doctor came forward and gave her morphine patches after she first said she couldn't stand the pain," Dr. Kevorkian said yesterday in a telephone interview from his home in West Bloomfield, Mich.

But he added that the morphine "was losing its effect, and she just didn't want to take the pain anymore."

The woman, Margaret Garrish, 72, a homemaker in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, committed suicide by breathing carbon monoxide in her bedroom with Dr. Kevorkian and several family members present, including her husband, William.

The death was the retired pathologist's first assisted suicide in more than a year, and the 21st since he began practicing what he calls "medicide" in June 1990.

Mrs. Garrish made a televised appeal in March, saying she wanted either pain relief or "a way out" of the suffering caused by rheumatoid arthritis, advanced osteoporosis, severe colon disorders and other ailments.

As a result of that appeal, which was broadcast on news programs nationally, Dr. Pavan Grover of Houston and Dr. John Nelson of Traverse City, Mich., wrote and telephoned Dr. Kevorkian and his lawyers offering to try to relieve Mrs. Garrish's pain, they said Sunday. But they said they received no response. Dr. Kevorkian, 66, cannot prescribe pain-killing drugs himself, since his license to practice medicine was suspended in 1991, after he began assisting in suicides. "What were they going to do, anyway, medicate her into a coma?" he said yesterday.

Dr. Grover, an anesthesiologist who specializes in pain management, said in a telephone interview that he did not know whether he could have helped, but added, "There's a lot more we can do these days than morphine patches."

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