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Retired pathologist Jack Kevorkia, better known as "Dr. Death," provided advice by mail and telephone that helped a California man deliver lethal drugs to a cancer-stricken dentist, it was reported Wednesday.

In a copyright story from Los Angeles, the Free Press said free-lance journalist Don Rubin, 46, helped utilize the advice in the death of his best friend Dr. Gary Sloan, who was suffering from colon cancer.But the Detroit News bannered a story in which Rubin, a believer in death with dignity, criticized Kevorkian for giving suicide advice to a virtual stranger and not staying in touch to learn what happened.

Kevorkian, 63, faces a preliminary hearing Friday in Rochester, Mich. , on open murder charges in the deaths last October of two Michigan women in a remote cabin.

He came to national attention in June 1990 when he helped an Oregon woman commit suicide with a machine that allowed her to administer her own legal injection.

Rubin told the newspapers Sloan died last March but that he came forward because he feared the retired Michigan pathologist's approach to death with dignity could lead to heartbreak or botched suicides.

"It took 20 years of knowing this guy and knowing him as a brother to know I was doing the right thing," Rubin said of his efforts on behalf of Sloan. "How could Kevorkian, from Royal Oak (Mich.) in a couple of phone calls, make that decision? What if Gary had just been going through a depressive episode?"

Although he is grateful for the advice, Rubin said, "We had no other choice. I wish we had someone else. He's turning this into a circus."

Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian's attorney, said Kevorkian counseled Sloan for eight months through the mail and by telephone but neither he nor Kevorkian followed up to see if Sloan had taken his life. Fieger said he assumed Sloan died from colon cancer.

"He took his own life?" Fieger said. "Wow, interesting."

Fieger told the News he found Rubin's criticism incredulous.