Charges thrown out against US right-to-die leader

March 23, 2013

(AP)—A judge dismissed charges against the former leader of a U.S. right-to-die group accused in the death of a Minnesota woman, ruling that the state law against advising suicide is unconstitutionally overbroad.

The judge dismissed charges against Thomas Goodwin, former president of Final Exit Network. The group argued the law violates a person's right to .

Last year, four members of the group were charged in the 2007 death of Doreen Dunn, who killed herself in her home. Prosecutors said the defendants provided Dunn with information and support to follow through with her suicide. Dunn had suffered through a decade of intense, after a went wrong.

Final Exit Network is run by volunteers who believe that mentally competent adults have a basic human right to end their lives if they suffer from "fatal or irreversible illness or intractable pain" and meet other criteria, according to the group's website. "We do not encourage anyone to end their life," the website says.

Goodwin was charged with aiding and abetting assistance of a suicide, a felony, and aiding and abetting in the interference with a death scene, a gross misdemeanor.

Final Exit members say the act of giving information and emotional support could be interpreted as "encouraging" under a Minnesota law that makes it a felony for someone to intentionally assist, advise or encourage suicide.

In , Final Exit Network general counsel Robert Rivas wrote that while the state may bar someone from "assisting" a suicide, it is unconstitutional for the state to ban "advising" or "encouraging" a suicide—pure speech.

Prosecutors contend the statute is narrowly worded so advocates of suicide may freely speak their minds but that those who "intentionally" assist, encourage or advise suicide are breaking the law.

said it's not against the law to commit suicide, but the statute is designed to preserve human life.

Rivas wrote that the statute could be interpreted to make it a crime for "exit guides" to advise people on how to die peacefully and with certainty if they decide to take their lives.

An indictment charges Final Exit Network, its former medical director Lawrence Egbert, 85, and three other officials with felony counts of assisting and interference with a death scene, a gross misdemeanor.

Prosecutor James Backstrom said in a statement that his office was pleased the judge found probable cause for most of the counts in the indictment against Final Exit Network and several of its members. Backstrom said his office is reviewing the judge's ruling on the law's constitutionality to determine how to proceed.

Explore further: Debate flares over assisted suicide

shares

Related Stories

Debate flares over assisted suicide

May 8, 2012
Doreen Dunn had lived in pain for a decade by the time she killed herself in May 2007.

UK experts: Assisted suicide legally possible

January 5, 2012
An independent panel of experts in the U.K. says there is a strong case for changing British law to help terminally ill people die.

Zurich hosts dignity in death debate

June 12, 2012
Groups supporting the right to hasten dying will meet in Zurich this week for a global conference on assisted suicide, reigniting the debate on dignified death.

Swiss assisted suicide laws do not necessarily promote desire for death, study finds

October 11, 2012
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology for Clinical Settings shows that while current Swiss law does not necessarily increase the desire for assisted suicide, patients wish to discuss the option with their physician. ...

Recommended for you

Exposure to violence hinders short-term memory, cognitive control

July 24, 2017
Being exposed to and actively remembering violent episodes—even those that happened up to a decade before—hinders short-term memory and cognitive control, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National ...

Using money to buy time linked to increased happiness

July 24, 2017
New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness.

Researchers pave new path toward preventing obesity

July 24, 2017
People who experience unpredictable childhoods due to issues such as divorce, crime or frequent moves face a higher risk of becoming obese as adults, according to a new study by a Florida State University researcher.

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lurker2358
not rated yet Mar 23, 2013
In court documents, Final Exit Network general counsel Robert Rivas wrote that while the state may bar someone from "assisting" a suicide, it is unconstitutional for the state to ban "advising" or "encouraging" a suicide—pure speech.


Wow.

Everything that comes out of your mouth, and everything you write is "pure speech".

So what? Now "Hate speech" is legal again?

Can Christians in public office pray publicly now, or speak freely to others about their beliefs? no? But that's "Pure speech".

You hypocrites.

You don't mind someone telling someone else how to kill themselves, but trying to help someone else change themselves for the better is a "crime".

It's a damn shame that these are the morons we have in the seat of judgement.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.