Supporting the human right to a Death With Dignity
Supporting the human right to a Death With Dignity
Final Exit Network is a national non-profit (501c3) organization
serving members throughout the country - in all 50 states.
Final Exit Network is the only national organization that publicly offers education, support, and a compassionate presence to our members. We provide exit guides throughout the U.S. to those who meet our Medical Committee requirements.
Through the defense of our Exit Guides, we have made significant changes to laws in states where our right to provide services has been challenged. As the U.S. host of the 20th international biennial conference, our support of the World Federation of Right to Die Society's Conference in September 2014 in Chicago highlighted the importance of this significant WORLD movement.
Many of our members join to promote the right to death with dignity. Others join to support our exit guide volunteers, or to help pay for legal protection for our exit guides.
It is our hope that one day, the right to death-with-dignity will be far more than a phrase, but a right that each one of us may choose to exercise at the end of our lives and, if necessary, at a time of our own choosing.
Supporting the human right to a Death With Dignity
Join us! We provide compassionate support throughout the United States.
Final Exit Network
P.O. Box 10071
Tallahassee, FL 32303
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FEN General Counsel Robert Rivas reports on the trial in Hastings, MN.
For Faye Girsh's trial commentary, request ERGO's free,
nonprofit world news list in digest form [email@example.com].
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.”
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.
The Guardian reported 22 July 2015:
Love and choosing death:
A couple's plea for assisted dying rights -
In January, Steve Goldenberg and his doctor joined a lawsuit against
several district attorneys across New York that aims to legalize aid in
dying -- also called physician-assisted suicide. In April, state district
attorney Eric Schneiderman made a motion to dismiss the suit.
Whether the judge decides to hear arguments, it's unlikely Goldenberg
will survive to see the final outcome.
"If I get to see spring, I'll be lucky," Goldenberg said. If throat
cancer doesn't end his life, complications from diabetes or many
illnesses related to AIDS will, he said. He wants his doctor to
prescribe life-ending medication in case the pain becomes unbearable.
His doctor would like to help but could face manslaughter charges if he
Since December 2014, lawmakers in the District of Columbia and at least
25 states across the nation, including New York, have introduced
so-called death with dignity bills.
View the video that accompanies this article:
First City in Arizona to Pass Resolution
in Support of Aid in Dying
Bisbee, Arizona .. On September 1, 2015, the Bisbee City Council passed
a resolution by a 4-3 vote supporting Aid in Dying (aka Death with
Dignity), an option already available in several states enabling a
competent, terminally ill adult to obtain a life-ending medication
should their suffering become unbearable.
Spear-headed by Bisbee Councilperson, Joan Hansen, the resolution is the
first of its kind in Arizona. Although the resolution cannot change the
current laws, it recognizes the growing public support and call for a
humane and dignified end-of-life option. Aid in Dying provides the
medical freedom of a competent, terminally ill adult -- one who has been
diagnosed with an incurable illness likely to cause death within six
months -- the right to request a prescription for life-ending medication,
the option to fill that prescription, and the option to self-administer
the medication at the time and place of that person's choosing.
The resolution affirms that the City of Bisbee:
- Respects the diversity of perspectives of its citizens,
- Supports equal protection within the diversity of perspectives on
- Recognizes the practice of Aid in Dying as a legitimate individual
- And -- while not a legally enforceable document -- urges prosecutorial
discretion by the Cochise County Attorney in de-prioritizing cases
involving prosecution of a person who has supported, been present, or
facilitated a loved one to advance the time of his or her imminent death
when facing intolerable suffering.
Although Bisbee is the first Arizona municipality to go on record with
its support of Aid in Dying, it joins Los Angeles, San Francisco, West
Hollywood, and the counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Cruz,
Alameda in California, which have passed a similar resolution in support
of California's End of Life Option Act.
"I believe that working 'from the ground up,' at the city level, is
among the best ways to move legislation forward to the state and federal
level," said Lizann Michaud of Bisbee. "It's a way that movements can
make headway without having money and political influence behind them."
(Bisbee Observer, 8/27/15) This is not the first time Bisbee has been
forward-thinking and acting. In 2013, it was the first city in Arizona
to legalize same-sex civil unions. And in 2014, Bisbee was the first
city in Arizona to ban plastic bags.
-- ERGO Listserv
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for Greg Jone's
January 13, 2016
End of Life Washington, the right-to-die advocacy group concocts cheaper alternative to the outrageously expensive drug made by Valiant Pharmaceuticals. Once California's law was passed, the company coincidentally hiked its price for Seconal up to $3000 from an original $150.
Vanity Fair Confidential:
Angel of Death starts and ends with FEN stories, highlighting the movement since Jack Kevorkian was first interviewed by Ron Rosenbaum in Vanity Fair magazine in 1991.
The program airs on cable channel "Investigation Discovery." The air date for the program is set for Monday, March 21st, 9pm (check local listings)
Access to Democracy
Alan Miller with his guests FEN general counsel Robert Rivas and FEN board member Gary Wederspahn tackle the MN case head on and educate us about the complicated issues involved.
It's a challenge that must be won to protect the first amendment rights of the entire right to die movement in the US.
Published on Dec 20, 2015
Having Conversations About the End of Life
By Frank Kavanaugh
After many teasers and disappointments for doctors and patients, an important change is in the cards. Medicare will start compensating physicians for end-of-life dialogues with their patients effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Discusses Euthanasia of the Mentally Ill
The Economist has released a film about the tragic case of Emily, a 24-year old Belgian woman granted the right to a doctor’s help to end her own life because of her persistent, severe depression.
IRA Charitable Donations -
As of December 18, 2015, the IRA Charitable Rollover was passed by Congress and signed into permanent law by the President.
"Be with us now, so we can be
with you later."
"Access to Democracy" an interview with Gary Wederspahn and Faith on MN public access TV.
Death Tracks with Bodhi Be / Maui on Intention Radio explores what it takes to be an Exit Guide in an interview with Peter Vennowitz who shares the intimate experience of being a compassionate guide.
We are sad to report the death of Dr. Larry Egbert, a dedicated supporter of death with dignity and dedicated doctor. Dr. Egbert gave an eloquent defense of Final Exit Network during the Minnesota trial. Read more.
Obituary Lawrence Deems Egbert, Jr.
September 22, 1927 / June 9, 2016
Lawrence Deems Egbert, Jr., M.D., M.P.H., a resident of the Hampden
neighborhood of Baltimore, died of a heart attack Thursday evening, June
9th. He was the oldest and the longest-surviving of the three sons of
Lawrence D. Egbert, Sr. and Lyn Forsyth Egbert. He is survived by his
wife, Ellen Barfield, his five children: Louise Egbert Treitman (Rick
Treitman), Lexington MA; Ruth Egbert Walker (Ron Walker), Stillwater,
OK; Dave Egbert (Imane Daher), Parkville, MD; James Egbert (Peg Murphy),
Eureka, CA; and Ben Egbert (Thomas Lymenstull) of Dallas TX, nine
grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his
former wife, Dorothy Staples Egbert, of Stillwater, OK and was
predeceased by his former wife, Marcelle Hechemy Egbert. He was 88 years
Dr. Egbert was a retired professor of anesthesiology and public health.
He earned several degrees from Johns Hopkins University and his M.D.
from the University of Maryland. He was a veteran, having served both in
the Army and Navy, and was stationed in Japan after the Second World War.
Lawrence was born in Champaign, IL and grew up in Washington, DC. He
was a nationally-recognized anesthesiologist, publishing several
important articles about patient care and racism in the New England
Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.
He worked at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital,
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center in Dallas. He also served for several years as visiting
faculty at Pahlavi University Medical School in Shiraz, Iran and the
American University of Beirut in Lebanon.
In later years, he became an anti-war and anti-nuclear activist, a
member of the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and a
volunteer with Doctors Without Borders. He was also strongly opposed to
the death penalty and was a nationally-known expert on lethal injection.
In recent years he was the medical director of Final Exit Network?an
organization that provides education and compassionate presence to those
facing end of life choices. He was arrested and faced multiple trials
for his work with FEN. He was active for much of his life in Unitarian
Universalist district governance and social change committees,
especially UUs for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He was attending a
Quaker Meeting in recent years.
Lawrence has lived with his wife Ellen in Baltimore for nearly twenty
years. He did not own a car or a cell phone. He bicycled nearly
everywhere he needed to go, rain or shine. A memorial service is
tentatively planned for August 27th in Baltimore. Donations in his
memory can be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Final Exit
Network or Veterans For Peace.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune explores the recent deaths of Frank and Barbara Kavanaugh in an indepth article by
Barbara Peterson Smith.
Atlantic Monthly details the work of Final Exit Network in an indepth article about the Network and its unique role in the death with dignity movement.
Portland man shares inside look into the world of an Exit Guide.
By Kaitlin Bolduc, KPTV, Portland, OR
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. - Helen Keller