Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Final Exit Network and its leaders are indicted for assisted suicide.


Members of the Final Exit Network, a group that counsels and aids people to commit suicide, were indicted in Minnesota in the assisted suicide death of Doreen Dunn on May 30, 2007. According to an article from CBS news, a Minnesota grand jury has indicted Final Exit Network leaders, Lawrence Egbert, 84; Jerry Dincin, 81; Roberta Massey, 66; and Thomas Goodwin, 65.


This is not the first time that the leaders of the Final Exit Network have been indicted.


John Celmer
In Arizona, Wye Hale-Rowe, a member of the Final Exit Network, pled guilty to facilitation of manslaughter in the Spring 2007 suicide death of Jana Van Voorhis (58).


Several leaders of the Final Exit Network were charged in the assisted suicide death of Georgia resident John Celmer, who was experiencing deep depression after surviving facial cancer. In this case the charges were dropped after the Final Exit Network were successful in getting the Georgia Supreme Court to strike down the law. The Georgia legislature responding by passing a comprehensive prohibition of assisted suicide that Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia recently signed into law.


Stephen Drake
Stephen Drake, the research director for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet has followed the Final Exit Network for several years. He commented last week on the Indictment hearing in Minnesota by stating:


Not all of what the FEN website claims is true. Take this, for example, from the latest article: 

A Final Exit Medical Committee reviews information, and if approved, an “Exit Guide” is assigned who provides detailed information how a person may purchase equipment and take steps to end their own life, according to the website.

“The Network never supplies equipment,” the website states.
That right there - about FEN never supplying equipment.  It's not true.  How do we know?  The overly-modest and zealous Dr. Larry Egbert told us so, in an interview that appeared in the Washington Post in January:
Egbert tells me that years ago he asked someone who was about to “exit” if he could reuse the hood to save future patients the cost of buying a new one. The patient was delighted with the idea, Egbert says. He started asking everyone.

The hood in my bare hands feels slightly slick. So, this one, the one I’m holding, has been used to end someone’s life? I ask. Egbert tells me it has surely been used at least once, and maybe several times, and the same could be said for most of the other 17 hoods in the garbage bag. 
So, Egbert, by his own admission, has provided equipment on a regular basis in his work as an 'exit guide.'  That might seem like a minor point to some in and of itself, but the fact is, there is no way for us - the public - to verify any claim FEN makes.  It's only when someone like Egbert gets to talking and bragging we get to hear some facts that depart from the established script.


CBS article that was published today stated:
The 17-count indictment charges the medical director of Final Exit Network, Lawrence Egbert of Baltimore, and three other officials with felony counts of assisting suicide and interference with a death scene, a gross misdemeanor. It also charged the New Jersey-based group in its corporate capacity. 
"This investigation and prosecution is not a politically motivated attack on the right-to-die movement," Dakota County prosecutor James Backstrom said at a news conference. "Rather, it is an effort to bring to justice a corporation and several of its officers and volunteers who we are alleging advised, encouraged or assisted Doreen Dunn in the taking of her own life on May 30, 2007, in violation of Minnesota law." 
Officials with First Exit Network have said they acted within the law and within their free speech rights when they counseled Dunn. She was 57 when she committed suicide at her Apple Valley home after suffering through a decade of intense, chronic pain following a medical procedure that went wrong. She died of asphyxia from inhaling helium, which Backstrom said is the method the group generally recommends. 
Minnesota law prohibits aiding, advising or encouraging a suicide, and Backstrom said he's obligated to enforce that. ... 
The group (Final Exit Network) says Minnesota's law is unconstitutional because it violates freedom of speech by preventing it from educating people on how to commit suicide. It also contends on its website that it's careful to avoid crossing the line into assisting suicides. It says volunteers may attend deaths to provide emotional support, but they don't provide the means for members to kill themselves and they don't provide physical assistance in doing so. 
A ruling is expected within the next couple of months on a free-speech challenge to Minnesota's statute in another case. The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last month in the case of an ex-nurse who stalked online suicide chat rooms and was convicted of encouraging two depressed people to kill themselves. 
An autopsy in 2007 concluded Dunn died of coronary artery disease and noted that she had suffered from chronic pain. It did not list her death as a suicide. 
Dakota County and Apple Valley police began investigating her death after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation sent a letter to other law enforcement agencies in 2009 about a criminal case there. Charges against four Final Exit Network members were dismissed when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in February that the state's ban on suicide assistance ads was an unconstitutional restriction on speech. ... 
None of the four defendants were in custody. Backstrom said they would have to appear in court for arraignment at some point or face extradition. Backstrom said Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for up to a year in jail for the four defendants if convicted on the felony charges.
The charges through grand jury indictment are as follows, according to the statement published by the Apple Valley Patch newspaper:

1. Final Exit Network, Inc.
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide – a felony
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide (Aiding or Abetting) – a felony
  • Interference With A Death Scene – a gross misdemeanor
  • Interference With A Death Scene (Aiding or Abetting) – a gross misdemeanor 
2. Lawrence Deems Egbert, age 84 of Baltimore, MD
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide – a felony
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide (Aiding or Abetting) – a felony
  • Interference With A Death Scene – a gross misdemeanor
  • Interference With A Death Scene (Aiding or Abetting) – a gross misdemeanor 
3. Jerry D. Dincin, age 81 of Highland Park, IL
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide – a felony
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide (Aiding or Abetting) – a felony
  • Interference With A Death Scene – a gross misdemeanor
  • Interference With A Death Scene (Aiding or Abetting) – a gross misdemeanor 
4. Roberta L. Massey, age 66 of Bear, DE
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide – a felony
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide (Aiding or Abetting) – a felony
  • Interference With A Death Scene (Aiding or Abetting) – a gross misdemeanor
5. Thomas Edmund "Ted" Goodwin, age 65 of Punta Gorda, FL
  • Assisting Another To Commit Suicide (Aiding or Abetting) – a felony
  • Interference With A Death Scene (Aiding or Abetting) – a gross misdemeanor 
The full grand jury indictment and statement from the Dakota County Attorney's Office are attached.

Read Apple Valley Patch's follow up to this story here.

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