Final Exit Network
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (September 2013)|
The Final Exit Network is an American all-volunteer organization that offers counseling, support, and guidance in a successful suicide to individuals who are suffering from an intolerable illness. The organization believes that individuals suffering from intolerable illnesses deserve a dignified death. The organization promotes the use of living wills, advance directives, durable powers of attorney for health care, and do not resuscitate orders, and advocates for individuals when their Advance Directives are not being followed.
Final Exit Network originated as the Hemlock Society, which later was renamed End-of-Life Choices. End-of-Life Choices merged with the Compassion in Dying Federation to form the currently existing group Compassion and Choices, whose efforts primarily promote legislative change. Some of the former Hemlock Society's leadership formed Final Exit Network, which focuses on providing compassionate support to the dying as opposed to promoting legislative change. Final Exit Network is a member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies (and Compassion and Choices is not). Its current president is Wendell Stephenson. Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, is a member of the Final Exit Network's advisory board, and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Final Exit first published in 1991.
The Exit Guide program of Final Exit Network provides compassionate support to many whom other organizations may turn away, accepting people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, congestive heart failure, emphysema, cancer, and other incurable illnesses. Final Exit Network conducts a rigorous review process and protocols to ensure that applicants for support in their "self deliverance" are suitable candidates and are not suicidal.
Jana Van Voorhis case
Jana Van Voorhis was an Arizona woman with a history of mental illness whose suicide was allegedly assisted by the Final Exit Network in 2007. Two members of the Final Exit Network were charged with aiding in a suicide (which is considered manslaughter under Arizona law) and conspiracy to commit manslaughter. Two others were charged only with conspiracy.
Two of the defendants, Wye Hale-Rowe and Roberta Massey, both elderly and in poor health, pleaded guilty to minor charges in plea bargains that ensured they would not run any risk of being sentenced to a prison term. The trial of the other two began on April 4, 2011. After a two-week trial, Final Exit Network's medical director, Dr. Lawrence Egbert, was found not guilty by an eight-member jury.
The jury was "hung" on the case against a volunteer "Exit Guide," Franklin Langsner. Before his retrial, scheduled for August 4, 2011, the State offered him a plea bargain "he could not refuse," he said. He pleaded guilty to a minor misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year on probation, following which his "record" would be expunged.
Thus the State was unable to secure any conviction by a jury, and nobody from Final Exit Network pleaded guilty to assisting in a suicide, or to any felony charge.
John Celmer case
On February 25, 2009, four members of the Final Exit Network were arrested for allegedly assisting the suicide of a cancer patient, John Celmer, of Cumming, Georgia, a small town north of Atlanta. Those arrested were Ted Goodwin, Claire Blehr, Dr. Lawrence Egbert, and Nicholas Alec Sheridan. The organization, Final Exit Network, Inc., was also indicted on a racketeering charge.
Opponents of the right to die hailed the arrests. On the other hand, bioethicist Jacob M. Appel called the group "courageous"[not specific enough to verify] and bioethics attorney William Colby of the Center for Practical Ethics questioned whether "trying to round up people in groups" was productive.
The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment on grounds that the Georgia statute on aiding in a suicide is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In early 2011 the trial court judge entererd an order denying the defendants' motion to dismiss the indictment. The judge entered an order authorizing the defendants to appeal this decision. On February 6, 2012, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously struck down Georgia's assisted suicide law, deemed the statute unconstitutional, and found it violated 1st Amendment free speech provisions. The case was subsequently dismissed and Goodwin, Blehr, Egbert, and Sheridan were acquitted of the charges.
- "The Suicide Plan - PBS Frontline". Pbs.org. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
- Bethea, Charles, "Death's Escorts: The Final Exit Network, and what they leave behind," March 2010
- Rhonda, Cook; Boone, Christian (February 26, 2009). "4 arrested in Ga. assisted suicide sting". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Bluestein, Greg (April 1, 2010). "Members of group plead not guilty". Associated Press. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- Karmasek, Jessica M. (2012-02-13). "Ga. SC deems assisted suicide law unconstitutional". Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- Rankin, Bill (February 6, 2012). "Court strikes down Georgia's assisted-suicide law". Cox Media Group. Retrieved 18 February 2012.