Assisted Suicide Ban

P.A. 328 of 1998
S.B. 200 of 1998 – Sen. Bill Van Regenmorter
M.C.L. 750.329a
Current Status
On July 28, 1998, Governor John Engler signed S.B. 200 giving Michigan a permanent ban on assisted suicide that took effect on September 1, 1998. (See also: prop. B)

Causing a person by force to commit suicide is murder. Causing, by force or coercion, a person to attempt suicide is attempted murder. Doing any of the following with the intent to assist someone in a suicide is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and/or a fine of $2000:

  1. Provide the means by which an individual attempts or commits suicide.
  2. Participate in an act by which an individual attempts or commits suicide.
  3. Help an individual plan to attempt or commit suicide.

This does not apply to providing pain medications with the intent to relieve pain and not to cause death.

On December 13, 1994, the Legislature failed to reach agreement on a bill that would make the ban on assisted suicide indefinite. The original ban expired on November 25, 1995 and no new ban was enacted.

Also on December 13, 1994, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a series of cases pertaining to the question of assisted suicide. The two more substantive rulings held that assisting in suicide is a common law offense and that no protected right to suicide or suicide assistance is found in the state or federal constitution. This latter ruling was the basis for upholding the temporary ban on assisted suicide passed by the Legislature in 1993. Both of these key rulings were issued by 5-2 votes of the Court. Separate challenges brought against the ban by Jack Kevorkian and the American Civil Liberties Union also questioned the procedural validity of the law. The plaintiffs held that the Legislature violated constitutional procedural requirements when the ban provisions were added to a bill setting up a study commission on assisted suicide. The justices ruled 7-0 that the Legislature acted appropriately.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Kevorkian’s appeal, charges against Jack Kevorkian both before and after the statutory ban was enacted were allowed to be brought to trial. Kevorkian’s lawyer later unsuccessfully challenged the charges against Kevorkian in federal appeals court.

On April 24, 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court denied appeals by Jack Kevorkian and the ACLU thereby affirming a 1994 Michigan Supreme Court decision. Kevorkian had appealed the Michigan Supreme Court’s determination that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide. The ACLU had appealed the Michigan Supreme Court’s determination that the Michigan legislature passed a constitutionally valid law banning assisted suicide.

On December 4, 1997 the Michigan Senate voted 28-7 to approve S.B. 200, the ban on assisted suicide sponsored by Senator Bill Van Regenmorter. The Senate soundly rejected S.B. 653 that would have legalized assisted suicide. (The language of S.B. 653 was nearly identical to the Merian’s Friends petition.)

On January 20 and 28, 1998, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on S.B. 200 and reported it out by a vote of 14-3 after adopting an amendment to the bill that would place the issue of assisted suicide on the November 1998 ballot.

The Michigan House voted 66-40 to approve S.B. 200, on March 12, 1998. Final passage came after House members rejected the committee amendment that would have placed the ban on the November ’98 ballot. The vote to reject the amendment was 62-44. Two minor technical amendments were also adopted. An attempt to give the ban immediate effect fell short of the 74 votes needed. The bill was returned to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments. That vote was delayed in hopes of returning the bill to the House to reconsider the vote on immediate effect.

The House of Representatives “respectfully requested the return” of S.B. 200 for reconsideration of the bill on June 30, 1998. The House then took up the bill 7/2/98, amended it to have an effective date of 9/1/98 (59-31 vote), and gave the bill immediate effect. With the support of the House leaders, primarily Speaker Curtis Hertel, the motion for immediate effect was simply approved “without objection.” The bill then returned to the Senate where the House amendment, immediate effect, was accepted and the bill was sent to the governor.