An 85-year-old former doctor from Arizona has been arrested and charged with manslaughter, accused of aiding a person to die by suicide in a New York motel in November, officials said.
Stephen P. Miller, of Tucson, Arizona, was arraigned Friday and pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree manslaughter and first- and second-degree assault, court records show.
The investigation started shortly before noon on Nov. 9, when police responded to a report about an unconscious and unresponsive person at a Super 8 on Washington Avenue in the city of Kingston, about 100 miles north of New York City, Kingston police said in a statement Friday.
First responders found a person who initially appeared to have died by suicide alone in the motel room, police said.
But further investigation led to evidence that a second person had been present who “contributed to or assisted in the suicide,” the statement said.
An investigation by police and the Ulster County district attorney’s office led to an arrest warrant’s being issued for Miller citing second-degree manslaughter under the state penal code regarding a person who "intentionally causes or aids another person" to die by suicide.
Authorities did not identify the dead person, but they said Miller was not related.
Miller’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lichtman told The New York Times that it was a woman who died in the motel room that night and that she had contacted Miller through a national organization that advocates for the legalization of medical aid in dying. Lichtman said Miller traveled to New York from Arizona to witness the death of the woman, who had severe, chronic pain. He said his client had provided similar services before.
“This was done carefully, compassionately and with a lot of research and reflection," Lichtman told the Times. Speaking to The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York, Lichtman said, “Providing advice on ending one’s life does not necessarily run afoul of the law.”
Miller serves on the advisory board of Choice and Dignity — an end-of-life nonprofit group based in Arizona that believes “everyone has the right to have their individual end-of-life plans respected and honored,” according to its website.
Medical aid in dying has long been controversial. It is legal in 10 states — including California and New Jersey — and Washington, D.C., according to Death with Dignity, an end-of-life advocacy and policy reform organization.
It is not legal in New York state, though it has been proposed — and has stalled — in the Legislature.
New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act, Senate Bill S2445A, follows an outline used in other states. It says a terminally ill patient who is mentally competent may request medication to be self-administered to hasten death, provided certain requirements are met. The bill was introduced in January 2023 and is in a Senate committee.
Miller was remanded to the Ulster County Jail on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond, or $3 million partially secured bond. Inmate records show he was bonded out the same day.
Miller is a former family practice doctor who graduated from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences in Chicago in 1964. He was issued a license to practice in Arizona in 1994, which expired in 2005, according to Arizona Medical Board records.
He was also issued a medical license in California in 1969, which was revoked in 2009, board records show, citing that Miller had been convicted of tax evasion in Texas in 2006. In that case, he was sentenced to a little less than four years in prison and three years of supervised release.
Miller is due back in court March 14.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.