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Going beyond Kevorkian

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MARYLAND'S assisted suicide law passed its first test, which came in a teen-age tragedy case that was darker and bleaker than Shakespeare imagined for his love-struck adolescents.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North wisely ruled in a juvenile hearing that a 15-year-old Crofton boy violated state law in October when he gave his girlfriend the gun she used to kill herself. But the judge, noting the boy's troubled past, sensibly found that he could not be held fully responsible for his action.

After the state's attorney brought charges against the boy, some argued that the assisted suicide law should apply only to health care workers helping terminally ill patients to die.

Judge North was right to interpret the law as it was written. State legislators did not write a measure only for the Jack Kevorkians of the world. The intent was to deter any "individual" from aiding another person's death.

Jennifer Garvey, also of Crofton, had attempted suicide before. But the boyfriend, who had serious emotional and delinquency problems, gave Jennifer the weapon that ended her life in a storm drain 11 months ago.

The youth violated several sections of the state's criminal code, including the new assisted suicide law. That measure forbids anyone to "knowingly" participate "in a physical act by which another person commits or attempts to commit suicide."

The law is much different from the physician-assisted suicide bill in Congress, which directly targets doctors. That bill raises concerns about whether doctors are accountable when their efforts to relieve pain cause death.

Maryland's statute is clearer. Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee took a lot of heat when he brought charges against the boy. But he did the right thing. So did Judge North.

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