Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Not Dead Yet: Minnesota Grand Jury Convening on Final Exit Network Member Charges

From Not Dead Yet:  

Right now, this latest story involving the Final Exit Network (FEN) is getting only local coverage, but it could become a national story, depending on the outcome.  From the story, by reporter Laura Adelmann:

Apple Valley woman may have killed herself using information from Final Exit Network

In a March 26 letter to a defense attorney, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom’s office stated it will convene a grand jury May 9-11 seeking an indictment to prosecute right-to-die advocates for their role in an Apple Valley woman’s May 30, 2007 suicide.
Doreen Nan (Gunderson) Dunn, then 57, suffered years of intense chronic pain and depression when she killed herself using a hood and helium gas, according to Robert Rivas, attorney for the Final Exit Network, a national nonprofit organization accused of assisting suicides and named in the investigation.
Before taking her life, Dunn had paid a $50 membership fee to Final Exit Network, according to a March 20 search warrant issued by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation detailing evidence forwarded to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office and obtained by Sun Thisweek.

The warrant cites phone records, documents, airline tickets and car rental contracts as evidence Dunn had contact with some Final Exit members months before taking her life and on the day she died.
Final Exit members named in the investigation are Thomas “Ted” Goodwin, former president of Final Exit Network; Roberta Massey, a Final Exit “case coordinator;” Jerry Dincin, then-Final Exit Network president; and Dr. Lawrence Egbert, Final Exit medical director who Newsweek dubbed “The New Doctor Death.”
Charges the grand jury will be asked to consider are aiding suicide, conspiracy to commit the crime of aiding suicide and interference with a dead body, according to the search warrant.
Those names should look familiar.  Goodwin and Egbert were both involved in the suicide of John Celmer, a man in Georgia who committed suicide after successful cancer treatment left him distressed about his appearance after surgery.  Massey and Egbert were defendants in the case involving Jana Van Voorhis, a woman with no serious physical problems but who had a long history of emotional and psychological issues.

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 don't know who else has supplied equipment to 'clients.'  We don't know how many FEN members 'pushed' so-called 'clients' with second thoughts to get on with it, not wanting their valuable times wasted.  We don't know how if any of the FEN members have held down the hands of a person trying desperately to tear the bag off.

We don't know.  And even Robert Rivas (FEN atty.) and Jerry Dincin cannot swear that they know the parameters of what has gone on in each and every so-called 'peaceful exit.'  They weren't there and they don't know.  When they try to tell us that everyone is behaving responsibly, remind them that Egbert already revealed one lie about their practices and we're not inclined to believe any other unverified claims they make.  --Stephen Drake