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El Chapo lawyer defends disgraced doctor against manslaughter charge for gas-assisted suicide

Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented El Chapo and John Gotti Jr., has taken the case of Stephen P. Miller, who is facing manslaughter charges for assisting a woman's suicide.

A high-powered attorney who has represented the likes of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and John Gotti Jr. has taken on the case of a disgraced doctor facing murder charges for walking a woman without a terminal illness through her nitrogen gas suicide in a New York motel room. 

Stephen P. Miller of Tucson, Arizona, 85, is charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of Doreen Brodhead, according to an indictment from the Ulster County District Attorney's Office. He also faces two counts of assault, according to the document. 

Cleaning staff found 59-year-old Brodhead dead in a Kingston Super 8 Motel on Nov. 9, 2023, the office wrote in a press release. Miller traveled from his home in Tucson to meet with Brodhead and assist her in taking her own life with a plastic hood and nitrogen gas.

Miller turned himself in to the Kingston Police Department on Feb. 2, according to the agency. The Ulster County District Attorney's Office wrote that he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released after posting a $1 million bond.

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Miller transported the tank of gas to New York but did not affix the hood to Brodhead, and the exchange was videotaped, said his lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman.  

The attorney said Brodhead contacted his client through a national organization that advocates for the legalization of physician-aided suicide. 

Worldwide, there are 80 organizations that are "Right to Die" societies, according to the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. Eleven states have legalized the practice for terminally ill patients – in May of last year, Vermont joined Oregon in allowing non-residents to travel there for their assisted suicide program.

Miller sits on the advisory board of Choice and Dignity, the organization confirmed to Fox News Digital. The Arizona-based nonprofit, which is about 500 members strong, advocates "right to die" laws. 

The group hosts meet-ups and workshops, including advocacy trainings, "Advance Directives" classes that teach prospective assisted suicide recipients to establish power of attorney and "clearly state [their] end-of-life and medical care wishes." 

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The group also teaches a "Life Completion Class," described as a "how to" in "ways to facilitate a peaceful death, including a demonstration of the inert gas method and [a discussion on] why not to use other methods." 

"Exit guides" – individuals like Miller who walk prospective recipients through the process – are also trained by the group, according to their literature.

"We see Steve's volunteering, as a compassionate presence for people who do not wish to die alone, as a noble undertaking," Jim Schultz, the president of the organization, told Fox News Digital. "We were so saddened to learn of his arrest... as I am sure you are aware, the taking of one's own life is not illegal." 

Schultz said the organization no longer offers its "Compassionate Consultant" services, which advise prospective terminally ill patients through the decision to take their own lives – however, the cessation predated Miller's arrest, with Schultz saying the group "didn't have the infrastructure to support the function." 

Miller is one of two board members with a medical background, Schultz said, along with a psychiatrist based in California. 

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Arizona Medical Board records show Miller's license to practice expired in 2005 – the next year, he was convicted on one count of federal tax evasion in Texas for using sham trusts and limited liability companies to conceal income and hide it offshore, the Justice Department said in a press release. He was sentenced to just under four years in federal prison, and records show his license to practice was revoked in 2009. 

Lichtman told Fox News Digital that his client "believes that people who are suffering from illness or pain should have some control over when their lives end."

Miller counseled the woman for "months" before their final meeting at the New York motel, he said.

"They sometimes want to talk to somebody – I think he wanted to make sure that this is something that she wanted to do and that there was no gray area," Lichtman said. 

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Lichtman said that although the Ulster County woman was not diagnosed with a terminal illness, she suffered from chronic pain. He refuted claims from a source close to the court case who told Fox News Digital that mental illness may have played a factor in Brodhead's final decision. 

"There was never a hint that Brodhead was suffering from mental illness," Lichtman insisted. "If she was, surely it would have been brought up at the bail hearing by the prosecutor. It wasn’t. Zero evidence."

Lichtman also said that Miller's family, rather than the Choice and Dignity group, is funding his legal representation. 

Miller's prosecution comes as Canada, which has some of the most liberal laws worldwide concerning physician suicide, delayed its plans to allow the mentally ill to opt into their programs last month, citing an insufficient number of psychiatrists for pre-death evaluations. 

The country introduced medically assisted death following a 2015 decision by its Supreme Court that requiring people to cope with intolerable suffering infringed on their fundamental rights of liberty and security. In 2021, the law was expanded to include those experiencing "grievous and irremediable" conditions like depression and other mental health issues in 2021. 

Previously, Southern California primary care doctor Jeff Barke described the growing Right to Die movement as a "terrible advancement" for society in an interview with Fox News Digital

"To legislate and consecrate the idea that we purposefully expedite their death, to me, is not what medicine is all about, not what our healing profession is about and is emblematic of what's going on in our society in all aspects," Barke said. 

"I think it's a terrible advancement that states are legislating the rights and the power of a physician to act God-like and create and expedite a patient’s death," Barke said.

Conversely, Choice and Dignity wrote in a statement on its website that it "deserves a death as free of pain and suffering as possible." 

"Every individual should have control over the care they are given at the end of life, including the right to end medical treatments when they no longer add to the quality of life," the nonprofit said. "Choice and Dignity helps our members to have that control and tries to advocate for those rights."

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