Paroled from a Michigan prison last week after serving 8 years for second-degree murder, Kevorkian, 79, conceded he was unlikely to succeed where efforts to legalize assisted suicide have failed in the past decade.
''I don't expect to succeed at what I'm doing,'' said Kevorkian, who spoke at a news conference yesterday accompanied by his lawyer, several supporters and a Hollywood producer who hopes to make a movie of the former pathologist's life story.
''I'll fight for this until my dying day and I probably won't succeed but it gives me a reason to live,'' he said in his first public appearance since leaving prison.
Kevorkian won international notoriety in the 1990s after assisting in some 130 suicides mostly in the Detroit area, some of which occurred in his rusty van.
As a condition of his two-year parole, Kevorkian promised the state he would not assist suffering and terminally ill patients commit suicide. He said he would hold to that vow even after his parole ended.
''What purpose would it serve?,'' he said. Risking further prosecution ''is not worth it ... It's now up to the people to fight for their right, and this is their right.'' In 1997, Oregon became the only U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Efforts to pass similar measures in other states including Michigan and Hawaii failed.
A bill modeled on the Oregon law was set to go to the California legislature this week.
About a dozen protesters in wheelchairs from the group Not Dead Yet, which supports civil rights for the handicapped, circled the entrance to the Southfield, Michigan building where Kevorkian met with reporters.
The group charges Kevorkian with targeting the disabled and depressed as he assisted in suicides in the 1990s and argues that his aim was to clear the way for euthanasia and medical experimentation on subjects.
''Disabled people aren't asking for help dying,'' said Sharon Lamp, one of the protesters. ''We're asking for help living.'' REUTERS HK KP0941