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About Final Exit Network:

Final Exit Network is a registered non profit organization. We believe in death with dignity and an individual's right to self determination. We are the only organization that publicly provides education on all end of life choices as well as a compassionate presence to those who are suffering from incurable diseases and have chosen to end their suffering. We do not put an artificial requirement for an individual to be certified as likely to die in six months. Suffering does not recognize that restriction and neither do we. 

To ensure that the maximum amount of your money is used to alleviate suffering we operate virtually, conducting our administrative business as much as possible through technology. Outreach to individuals seeking information from us is done entirely through volunteers and almost all our travel is done for that exclusive purpose. 

Final Exit Network is a national, nonprofit, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt corporation.

Gifts and memberships to Final Exit Network are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Website:      www.finalexitnetwork.org
Email:          PR@finalexitnetwork.org
Phone:         (866) 654-9156

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                    Final Exit Network
                    P.O. Box 10071
                    Tallahassee, FL 32302

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         Hastings, MN, May 15, 2015
        Read General Counsel Robert Rivas's commentary 

Also read the May 4 Minneapolis Star Tribune report

Highlights of the trial in the case of Doreen Dunn, brought by the State of Minnesota against Final Exit Network, Inc.
Monday, May11: Ted Goodwin speaks from the Witness Stand
By Julia Hanway

HASTINGS, Minnesota, May 12, 2015
    Tuesday was an eventful day for FEN in the Dakota County Court. Ted Goodwin was “compelled” to testify, ostensibly on behalf of the State. In reality, however, he gave an excellent review of the history and mission of Final Exit Network, the inception of the organization as it was derived from the original Hemlock Society and its philosophy of helping patients in incurable pain and suffering.
    Highlights of his remarks concerned his views of the inner-workings of the FEN founders and their decisions and motivations. Among the things he was asked was about holding hands with the dying member as the exit progressed. Mr. Goodwin was clear concerning the belief that the guide is a compassionate presence and the belief by early FEN board members that holding hands was important if it was something the dying member wished as the dying process was taking place – a human touch at the time of dying. He emphasized the FEN philosophy that no one should ever have to die alone or die a traumatic death. 
    The compassion of the Network’s philosophy was emphasized over and over during Mr. Goodwin’s testimony. Not only was his testimony compelling in showing the value and commitment of members of the Network, but the audience heard nothing that would diminish the role of the Network or its Exit Guides. It was an outstanding review of the history, beliefs, and vision of Final Exit Network.
    Mr. Goodwin was very clear that his view of holding hands down if necessary in case of a mishap with the helium bag, was a personal opinion, not shared by the board at the time, and in fact, the board had voted against any hand-holding for that purpose. He also made it clear that instructions on the intricacies of the mechanics of helium were to be found in Final Exit, the book by Derek Humphry, and that FEN always referred members to that book for information, and that the book and other materials were available online, in bookstores, and through ERGO – but not through Final Exit Network.
    Mr. Goodwin’s testimony was followed by the testimony of the husband and son of Doreen Dunn, the member whose exit is the subject of this case. 
    Their testimony was also compelling, as sad as it was clear that Ms. Dunn had a terrible existence of pain and suffering with little left in her life or the hope of any future free of pain. The suffering she had experienced for 10 years was clear in her letter to FEN requesting Exit Guide services. She ended her letter saying she had given it “the good fight,” but she felt it was time to end her suffering. According to her husband and son's testimony, she was 57 when she died and had no hope of any recovery in spite of a new grandchild that was to be delivered a few days after her death; she had dropped below 100 pounds at one point, and lived on piles of pillows and heating pads as every touch brought her more unbearable pain as her body continued to deteriorate.
    Today, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – the jury and court will hear testimony from Ms. Dunn’s daughter, the police officer who responded to the death scene, and the coroner

Friday, May 8
Our attorneys give us a little good news from the Dakota County Courthouse, Hastings, MN
Recap of the days events by Robert Rivas, Final Exit Network General Counsel

HASTINGS, Minnesota, May 8, 2015 --- Two of the four criminal charges pending against Final Exit Network, Inc. in Hastings, Minnesota were dismissed Friday morning.

Before the dismissal, the not-for-profit corporation was charged with two felonies: assisting in a "suicide," and "aiding and abetting" to assist in a "suicide"; and two "gross" misdemeanors, interfering with the scene of a death and "aiding and abetting" to interfere in the scene of a death.

Final Exit Network this week moved for Dakota County District Court Judge Christian Wilton to dismiss the two "aiding and abetting" counts. One of Final Exit Network's attorneys, Bill Sherry of nearby Apple Valley, argued that the "aiding and abetting" charges were an improper attempt by the state to charge Final Exit Network twice for each one of the two alleged crimes.

On Friday morning, after the judge and attorneys finished jury selection Thursday afternoon, the attorneys appeared before the judge for one last brief opportunity to argue about pending issues before the trial begins. The motion to dismiss the two "aiding and abetting" charges was expected to be argued, but at the last minute, the prosecutors announced they were finally persuaded that Final Exit Network's argument was correct: They asked the judge to dismiss the two "aiding and abetting" charges. He did so. 

Final Exit Network is thus now charged with one felony, assisting in a "suicide," and one "gross" misdemeanor, interfering in the scene of a death, in connection with the self deliverance of Doreen Dunn, 57, of Apple Valley, on May 30, 2007. The trial begins at 9 a.m. Monday at the Dakota County Judicial Center, 1500 Highway 55, Hastings, Minnesota. The trial is expected to take three to five days. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Robert Rivas, Final Exit Network General Counsel

HASTINGS, Minnesota, May 7, 2015 --- Just before 5 today the parties finished picking a jury in State of Minnesota v. Final Exit Network, Inc. The trial begins at 9 a.m. Monday.

The tedious jury selection process took from Monday through Thursday. Judge Christian Wilton of Dakota County District Court patiently invested an unusual length of time in screening the prospective jurors, applying procedures that are usually reserved for high-profile murder cases under the Minnesota rules of criminal procedure.

Judge Wilton did this in order to select a fair and impartial jury, given the emotional, religious, and political baggage inherent in "assisting in a suicide." Fifty-eight potential jurors were required to show up Monday morning to be considered as potential jurors. The judge and attorneys questioned 38 of them, calling them into the courtroom one at a time, before settling on a 12-member jury, plus two alternate jurors. Seven of the jurors are men, five are women. All are white except for one African-American woman.

"I have never seen a jury as well educated and as politically and religiously moderate," said Robert Rivas, the attorney for Final Exit Network, Inc. "We could not be more gratified with the success of this jury selection process."

Until the last minute, the defendants in the trial were expected to be Final Exit Network, Inc., the non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that serves as an umbrella for Final Exit Network's nearly all-volunteer operations, and a former medical director, Dr. Lawrence Deems Egbert, 87, a retired anesthesiologist from Baltimore and former Johns Hopkins faculty member.

But the Dakota County District Attorney unexpectedly "severed" Dr. Egbert from Final Exit Network's trial, granted immunity from prosecution to Dr. Egbert, and subpoenaed him to testify as a State witness against Final Exit Network. Dr. Egbert is now expected to testify on Tuesday, May 12.

A former Final Exit Network president, Ted Goodwin, 68, of Punta Gorda, Florida, was also granted immunity from prosecution and has also been subpoenaed to testify on behalf of the State on Monday, the first day of the trial. 

Having said for months that the trial was expected to take three or four weeks, the District Attorney's office prosecutors are now saying they expect the trial to be finished in less than one week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Dakota County Courthouse, Hastings, Minnesota

On the first day of the procedures leading up to the trial, which should begin next Monday, a few significant events happened and a few that were very mundane. The jurors were given questionnaires that had been agreed upon over the last month by attorneys on both sides; after filling them out over the lunch hour, the Court’s staff frantically copied them before returning them to the Judge and attorneys about 1:30. That was the mundane.

During the span of time that the jurors were out of the courtroom, a few significant items arose: the Judge suggested a gag order on all the attorneys citing that excessive press may influence the jury. Final Exit Network’s counsel, Robert Rivas, vehemently argued against this, saying that the State Attorney has continually used his office’s press connections to use this case as a tool for his political benefit. Arguing that FEN should not be “gagged” while the State has had months of unencumbered opportunity to make its case in the press during the run-up to the trial. A decision has been delayed on this ruling and further arguments may be allowed, either today or later in the week.

The second substantial concern was questioning the need for particular witnesses to be called. Mr. Rivas argued that the State is producing a number of witnesses whose value is dubious and their only purpose in being called is for the State to use them to inflame passions in the jurors. Arguing that their appearance would not address any of the legalities in the case, Mr. Rivas argued very articulately the FEN position and the need to justify all witnesses as to their clear value in determining the legal issues at hand, rather than for clearly emotional purposes. Again, further arguments may be allowed, either today or later in the week.

There was one other discussion that was interesting. As all followers of FEN know, the protocols of the Network are clear: No one ever supplies or handles any apparatus that a member may use to hasten their death. It is and always has been clear that the Exit Guide is only there to be a compassionate presence. Many times during the progress of a case after a person has expressed their wish to have an Exit Guide assigned, the member is asked repeatedly if they are sure they want to exit, and they are not even considered by the Medical Committee unless all other reasonable health care alternatives have been exhausted.

During the discussion in court, the State continues to try to put on evidence that someone from FEN may have supplied helium tanks to Doreen Dunn. There is no evidence proposed by anyone to that effect, but the State continues to try to make that case.

More in next post . . .

Julia Hanway
Final Exit Network
FEN General Counsel Robert Rivas reports on the trial in Hastings, MN.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! We were gratified to have people in the Minneapolis
area who joined us for the entire trial. Thank you to our members and supporters
who shared this important experience in Final Exit Network history. 
Read the AP news story for preliminary information. Read General Counsel Robert Rivas's report below.
      For Faye Girsh's trial commentary, request ERGO's free, 
      nonprofit world news list in digest form [right-to-die@lists.opn.org]. 
      Photos this page courtesy of Faye Girsh / ERGO.
Thursday, May 14: Final Exit Network found guilty on two charges.
Minnesota Case: Final Exit Network Found Guilty
Of a Crime For Showing Compassion
By Rob Rivas, General Counsel Final Exit Network

HASTINGS, Minnesota, May 14 — A 12-member jury found Final Exit Network, Inc. guilty of “assisting” in a “suicide” and interfering with the scene of a death so as to “mislead” the coroner. 

A five-woman, seven-man jury deliberated for only about half an hour at the end of the day on Wednesday, May 13, then another hour in the morning the next day before rendering its unanimous verdict, finding the not-for-profit corporation guilty on both of the counts against it. 

Judge Christian Wilton set the sentencing hearing to take place at 9 a.m. on August 24. The “assisting” in a “suicide” count, a felony, carries with it a potential fine of $30,000, while the charge of interfering “with the body or scene of death with intent to mislead the coroner or conceal evidence,” a “gross” misdemeanor, is punishable by a fine of up to $3,000.

Thus, since a corporation cannot be incarcerated, and no Final Exit Network board members or volunteers face any potential sanctions, the maximum possible punishment is a fine of $33,000.

The State’s case consisted of proof that the Network’s volunteers provided information, education, and emotional support to Doreen Dunn, 57, of Apple Valley, in her self-deliverance on May 30, 2007.

“The State’s entire case proceeded on the theory that Final Exit Network could be convicted solely for exercising its First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech,” said the Network’s attorney, Robert Rivas. “And the judge instructed the jurors that they could convict the Network with no evidence of actual assisting, but only of speech.” 

The Network immediately initiated plans to appeal to the Court of Appeals of Minnesota, the first step in the ladder of appeals from a conviction in the District Court of Dakota County.

To those who have followed the Network’s battle with the State of Minnesota since it began in 2012, the infringement of free speech rights that unfolded at the trial this week would seem completely implausible and inexplicable. Here’s how it happened.

The Minnesota statute prohibiting assistance in a “suicide” prohibits not only “assisting,” but also “advising” or “encouraging” a suicide. The State originally indicted the Network with plans, as openly stated, to try to convict the Network of “advising” or “encouraging” a suicide, since the State had no evidence of “assisting.” 

The Network moved to dismiss the indictment to the extent it relied on “advising” or “encouraging” a suicide, saying these two provisions violated the First Amendment-protected right of free speech. All the while the Network acknowledged that the State could theoretically convict a defendant of “assisting” in a “suicide” if it could prove actual physical assistance. 

The trial court judge, Karen Asphaug, agreed with the Network and ordered that the State’s case could proceed only on the “assisting” language of that statute, holding the “advise” and “encourage” clauses unconstitutional. The State appealed to the intermediate Court of Appeals of Minnesota. 

In 2013, the Court of Appeals, in resounding terms, agreed with the Network and Judge Asphaug and held the Minnesota statute unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the extent it prohibited “advising” and “encouraging” a “suicide.” Final Exit Network’s leadership thought they had struck a decisive blow for the First Amendment and thought the Hastings prosecution could not go forward based on pure speech, and might not be able to go forward at all. 

In the meantime, the Supreme Court of Minnesota was considering the appeal of William Francis Melchert-Dinklel, a middle-aged registered nurse who, as a hobby, trolled the Internet, sought out suicidal young people, pretended to be a suicidal teenager himself, and tried to talk his victims into hanging themselves in a double suicide pact. His only apparent motivation was to watch people die via a Skype hookup. He was charged under the same statute as Final Exit Network — the law against “advising, encouraging, or assisting” in a “suicide.”

In its Melchert-Dinkel decision, the Supreme Court — consistent with the Court of Appeals’ decision in the Final Exit Network case — held that the “advising” and “encouraging” provisions of the Minnesota statute had to be severed from the statute as violative of the First Amendment. 

Yet the Melchert-Dinkel precedent contained one paragraph that came back to haunt the Network this week. It said “assisting” in a “suicide” could be accomplished by “speech” if the speech “enabled” a suicide. Thus, having said a state law could not constitutionally prohibit “advising” or “encouraging” a “suicide,” the Supreme Court of Minnesota decreed that the courts themselves could prohibit “advising” or “encouraging” a “suicide” by their interpretation of the meaning of the word “assisting.”

In Hastings, Judge Wilton’s instructions to the jury said the jury could convict the Network of “assisting” in a suicide by “speech” if the speech “enabled” a suicide. In other words, speech on how to commit “suicide” would now be punishable as the felony of “assisting” in a “suicide.”

The final trap was sprung on the Network the day before the trial began, when the State filed a motion to amend the indictment. Where the indictment alleged that the crime took place on May 30, 2007, the day of Ms. Dunn’s self-deliverance, the proposed amendment expanded the date range for the commission of the crime to span from February 1, 2007 to May 30, 2007. By this sleight-of-hand the State swept all the communications between the Network and Ms. Dunn, from the day she applied for Exit Guide services through the date of her death, into the period of time during which the crime was allegedly committed.

Astoundingly, the judge granted the State’s motion to amend the indictment the day before the trial began. 

Between the expanded definition of “assisting” in a suicide, and the expanded date range for the crime, the State was allowed to contend that all of the activities that Final Exit Network performs in connection with Exit Guide services — all of the information, education, and support services routinely provided by Final Exit Network — together constituted a crime. The State was allowed to argue, and put on all its evidence in support of the argument, that the Network provided Ms. Dunn a “blueprint to kill herself,” and thereby “enabled” her to commit suicide, which constitutes “assisting” in a “suicide.”

The State’s successful prosecution in Minnesota sets a precedent that threatens the core of Final Exit Network’s Exit Guide program. Under the Minnesota precedent, any state with a law prohibiting “assisting” in a “suicide” could apply the Minnesota definition to the word “assisting.”

Minnesota did not protect free speech rights by its appellate rulings in 2013. Minnesota has merely recast the terminology in which free speech rights are violated. Now, any state may infringe on freedom of speech without openly saying so. Even a state that never before had a law prohibiting the “advising” or “encouraging” a “suicide” may now ban “advising” or “encouraging” a suicide by interpreting and redefining the word “assisting” to include the concepts of “advising” or “encouraging.”