Thursday, March 28, 2013

Not Dead Yet commentary on Final Exit Network court case in Minnesota.

The following article was written by Stephen Drake, the research analyst with the disability rights group Not Dead Yet and published on March 27, 2013 on the Not Dead Yet blog.
Stephen Drake
Stephen Drake, March 27, 2013
It’s been awhile since we’ve written about the Final Exit Network (FEN), but there are new developments in the criminal case against members of the group. You can read earlier posts on the case in Minnesota hereherehere and here.
Here’s an excerpt from a summary on NPR on the Frontline site (Frontline producers are big fans of FEN):
A Minnesota judge has ruled that part of the state’s law against assisted suicide is unconstitutional, in a ruling that could bolster right-to-die advocates’ efforts to overturn it. 
Judge Karen Asphaug made the decision in striking charges on March 22 against Thomas Goodwin, the former head of the Final Exit Network, a right-to-die group that has been accused of illegally assisting in the death of a 57-year-old woman suffering from chronic pain. 
It’s a felony in Minnesota to intentionally “assist, advise or encourage” suicide. Asphaug ruled that “advising” infringed on Goodwin’s right to free speech, since there was no evidence to directly implicate him in the woman’s death, and was therefore unconstitutional. The judge also struck down an assisted suicide charge and a charge for interfering with a death scene against one member, Roberta Massey.
There are still serious charges against the two remaining defendants:
The Final Exit Network and the two remaining defendants still face serious charges:
  • Lawrence Egbert, 84, who worked as Final Exit Network’s medical director, reviewed applications from people wishing to end their lives. Prosecutors say Egbert flew to Minnesota the day Dunn died. Egbert has been charged with two felony counts of assisting in a suicide, and two misdemeanors counts of interfering with a death scene.
  • Roberta Massey, 66, was a case coordinator, prosecutors say, and had contact with Dunn on the phone. One count of assisting with a suicide and another of interfering with a death scene was dropped against her last week, but she still faces one felony count of aiding others to assist in a suicide. 
A third defendant in the case, Jerry Dincin, faced the same charges as Egbert. Today, the network announced that he had died of cancer, at age 82.
Lawrence Egbert
If they can establish that Egbert was at the suicide, things could get really interesting, in terms of FEN’s claims of never providing assistance or material.  If that’s established, some public comments of Egbert’s in other venues could become relevant.  Here’s an excerpt from a post last May that discusses some of the challenges Egbert could face in the courtroom:
The reporter is pretty careful in most cases in this story to qualify statements about FEN practices with wording such as “the website states.” 
That’s important because 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.
We’ll wait and see what happens when they go to trial.


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John Kelly said...

Reusing death bags sounds like "assisting" to me. Thanks for the clarity.