WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Apr 23 - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by assisted suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian of the dismissal of his $10 million libel lawsuit against the American Medical Association and others for calling him a "killer" who engaged in "criminal practices."
Without any comment, the justices let stand a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals that the statements at issue were not defamatory and were constitutionally protected speech of public concern about a public figure.
Dr. Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, is serving a prison sentence of between 10 and 25 years for second-degree murder after being convicted in the 1998 death of a terminally ill man whose death he videotaped.
Dr. Kevorkian sued in 1996, accusing the Chicago-based AMA and some of its top officials of defaming him in 1995 for comments that also said he "serves merely as a reckless instrument of death" and "poses a great threat to the public."
The AMA said Dr. Kevorkian "perverts the idea of the caring and committed physician."
He also sued the Michigan State Medical Society and its executive director for publishing and distributing the comments made by the AMA, first in a letter and then in a news release.
A state judge said the lawsuit should go forward to trial, but the Michigan appeals court dismissed the case, saying the comments did not harm Dr. Kevorkian's reputation in the community.
Dr. Kevorkian's "reputation in the community, if not the nation, is such that the effect of more people calling him either a murderer or a saint is" insignificant and frivolous, the appeals court said.
In appealing to the
Supreme Court to review the case, Dr. Kevorkian's lawyer questioned whether
the Michigan appeals court had been correct in finding him "libel-proof."
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