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MICHIGAN AGENCIES PROBE SUICIDE-MACHINE INVENTOR

Medical regulators have joined prosecutors in investigating Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the suicide-machine inventor treading the line separating outsider from outlaw.

The Department of Licensing and Regulation launched a probe Wednesday of the 62-year-old retired pathologist who hooked an Alzheimer's victim to the drug-injecting apparatus and let her take her life with the press of a button."Our role is to gather the facts and evidence and determine what occurred," said Mary MacDowell, director of the department's Health Investigation Division.

Evidence of a violation of regulations would be referred to the state Board of Medicine, which could reprimand Kevorkian or lift his license, MacDowell said.

Meanwhile, Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson has not decided whether to charge Kevorkian in the death Monday of Janet Adkins. Attorney General Frank Kelley acknowledged the state has no law against assisting in a suicide.

State Police impounded the suicide machine, but Circuit Judge Alice Gilbert on Wednesday denied Thompson's request for an order barring further use of the device. The judge set another hearing for Friday.

Kevorkian defended the machine amid the fierce legal and ethical debate its use has stirred. He said a duplicate device could be built within days.

"What I'm doing is absolutely ethical," Kevorkian said Wednesday on ABC's "Nightline." "Of course it's audacious, but somebody has to do it. Doctors weren't going to tell anybody, and patients out there want it."

Adkins, 54, had been diagnosed a year ago with Alzheimer's, an incurable disease that leads to progressive deterioration of the brain and had traveled 2,000 miles from her home in Portland, Ore., to die through the use of Kevorkian's machine.

"Everyone says to me, `Hey, you're taking on yourself like God.' Well, then, come on and do something," Kevorkian said. "If it's legal, let me do it. If it's illegal, stop me."