A former doctor from Arizona is facing a manslaughter charge in New York for his role in the suicide of a woman who died in a Hudson Valley motel room in November, according to his lawyer and law enforcement officials.
The former doctor, Stephen P. Miller, 85, is charged with second-degree manslaughter under a provision of New York State law that makes it a crime for one person to intentionally cause or aid in the suicide of another.
Mr. Miller, of Tucson, also faces two assault counts. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in Ulster County Court on Friday and was being held at the Ulster County Jail on Monday in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or a $1 million bond.
Mr. Miller’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said the woman who died in the motel room had contacted his client through a national organization that advocates the legalization of medical aid in dying so that terminally ill patients have some control over how their lives end.
Ten states, including New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., allow some form of such aid. A bill that would legalize medical aid in dying in New York has repeatedly failed to win lawmakers’ approval in recent years.
Law enforcement officials disclosed few details about the suicide Mr. Miller is charged in, making it unclear whether it would be covered under such legislation.
The death was discovered at around 11:15 a.m. on Nov. 9, when emergency services workers responded to a Super 8 motel in Kingston, N.Y., and found a person who initially appeared to have died by suicide alone in the room, the Kingston police said in a news release.
Investigators later turned up evidence that a second person who “contributed to or assisted in the suicide” had been in the room, the release said. The police did not provide information about the person who had died or the cause of death, beyond saying that he or she was not related to Mr. Miller. They did not say how Mr. Miller had come to be a suspect.
Mr. Lichtman, Mr. Miller’s lawyer, said the woman who died had been contending with severe, chronic pain and felt she had run out of options for coping with it. Mr. Lichtman did not say whether the woman had a terminal illness.
Mr. Miller provided the woman with a book and counseling and traveled to New York from Arizona to witness her death, Mr. Lichtman said. Mr. Miller has provided similar services for other people on several occasions in recent years, Mr. Lichtman said.
Mr. Lichtman said he was unsure about the official cause of death, but believed that it was asphyxiation and that the woman had inhaled a gas of some kind.
“This was done carefully, compassionately and with a lot of research and reflection,” Mr. Lichtman said, adding that Mr. Miller now faced the “unconscionable” prospect of dying in prison.
Mr. Miller graduated from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Ill., in June 1964, medical board records in Arizona and California show. He worked in pediatrics early in his career and was then a family practitioner, the records show.
His license to practice in Arizona expired in 2005, Arizona Medical Board records show. The next year, he was convicted on one count of federal tax evasion in Texas in connection with a scheme that involved using limited liability companies and sham trusts to conceal income and move it offshore, according to a Justice Department news release. He was sentenced to just under four years in federal prison. His license to practice in California was revoked in 2009, records show.
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Go here for resources outside the United States.