Law appears to apply to complicity in death

Teen's charge: Maryland's prohibition against assisted suicide is not confined to doctors.

March 11, 2000

MARYLAND legislators may have been spooked by the haunting demonstration of Jack Kevorkian's death machine on "60 Minutes" when they passed a law banning assisted suicides. But reckless doctors weren't the only people lawmakers wanted to stop. The state law clearly seeks to prevent anyone from aiding a suicide.

So the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's office was right to bring Maryland's first assisted suicide charge against a teen-ager who is accused of taking an active part in the death of his 15-year-old girlfriend.

The law makes it a crime for any "individual" to provide the "physical means" for another person's suicide. It also forbids anyone from "knowingly" participating "in a physical act by which another person commits or attempts to commit suicide."

In this case, prosecutors say, the teen was a catalyst in the October death of Crofton's Jennifer Garvey.

The boy, then 15, is charged with providing the physical means, a handgun. According to the charge, he was an active participant in her death.

Prosecutors say Jennifer and the boy, who was 15 when the girl died, had formed a suicide pact. The boy brought a gun, gave it to Jennifer and watched as she fatally shot herself. That's pretty straightforward, and it clearly meets the guidelines of the state assisted suicide law.

Importantly, the boy is being tried as a juvenile, which also is appropriate. Keeping his case in the juvenile system should mean he would get the right combination of punishment, treatment and follow-up.

Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee is under fire from some critics for prosecuting the youth under a law written during the Kevorkian trial. But legislators made it clear that anyone -- doctor or layman -- commits a crime when they take an active part in another person's suicide.

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