X-Message-Number: 7672
Date: Sun, 09 Feb 1997 20:05:20 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Florida case update

(Feb 9/97)


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A Florida doctor could face sanctions from fellow
physicians - including the loss of his license - if he helps his
AIDS-stricken patient commit suicide.

The Florida Board of Medicine has this advice for Dr. Cecil McIver:
Don't do it, or else.

McIver and Charles Hall, 34, won the right to physician-assisted suicide
from a Palm Beach circuit judge Jan. 31. McIver would be free from
criminal prosecution if he helps Hall commit suicide; Hall wants to live
but wanted the option of taking his own life without interference from
the state.

McIver, of Jupiter, has agreed to supply Hall a fatal dose of drugs when
the Citrus County man nears death - and requests assistance.

But the medical board would have none of it.

``The board is not going to allow physician-assisted suicide,'' Chairman
Edward Dauer said Saturday after an emotional vote. ``We're not going to
give an open-ended invitation to Dr. (Jack) Kevorkian to come into
Florida. The doors are closed.''

Reflecting a national reluctance among politicians and physicians to set
policy, several board members wavered - a few even tried to avoid
casting votes - frustrating others at meeting.

``Why don't we take a nice, neutral position ... and let the court
decide it?'' asked board member Dr. Margaret Skinner of West Palm Beach.
Given the national debate, she said, ``We have no guidelines except for
this one narrow case.''

Ultimately, the board voted 9-6 against assisted suicide, meaning McIver
could face medical disciplinary action if he helps Hall commit suicide.
The 15-member medicine board routinely ends the careers of colleagues
who maim, kill and commit crimes.

The board voted again, this time on Jacksonville physician Georges A.
El-Bahri's proposal to oppose doctor participation. When the count came
out 9-4, the absence of two votes was noticed. Board members looked
around the table at each other until the reluctant two came forward to
join the opponents.

Hall and McIver have sued seeking freedom from medical discipline if the
doctor participates in Hall's death.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide this summer whether the U.S.
Constitution offers the right to a doctor's assistance in dying. Many
constitutional experts believe the issue will end up being handed back
to each state to decide.

Even Palm Beach Judge S. Joseph Davis Jr., restricting his ruling to the
specific case of Hall and McIver, invited state policymakers to define
when a patient's right to assisted suicide outweighs the risks of
needless death.

Davis made his ruling Jan. 31 and lawyers for the state quickly

An automotatic stay that put the ruling on hold was lifted by another
judge Thursday. The state attorney general's office has submitted the
case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Hall, who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, has battled
pneumonia, arthritis, partial blindness, a brain cyst and other
AIDS-related illnesses.

He suffers persistent pain and faces serious infection risks. He takes
up to 40 pills daily to ease his symptoms and ward off other ailments.

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