Judge fines Final Exit group convicted of assisting Minnesota suicide

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 24, 2015 2:35 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A Minnesota judge on Monday fined the national right-to-die group Final Exit Network $30,000 on its criminal conviction for assisting a woman's suicide in 2007.

Dakota County prosecutors had said during the group's jury trial that Doreen Dunn, 57, died by helium asphyxiation with two Final Exit group members present in her home, who then cleaned up after the suicide.

Judge Christian Wilton also ordered Final Exit to pay nearly $3,000 in restitution, plus court fees. Final Exit is on probation and restricted from providing services in Minnesota until full payment is made.

Dunn, who lived in a Minneapolis suburb, was not terminally ill but a medical procedure had left her with chronic pain for more than a decade before her death, which had been originally attributed to coronary artery disease.

Authorities reopened the investigation in 2010 after Georgia investigators told police Dunn had become a Final Exit member months before her death and had many contacts with members.

A grand jury in May 2012 indicted the group and four of its members on various charges of assisting Dunn's suicide. None of the individuals indicted stood trial.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said Final Exit Network's conduct was "legally wrong and morally reprehensible" and lacked protections afforded in a state such as Oregon, which permits physician-assisted suicide under specific conditions.

Assisted suicide is not legal in Minnesota.

"There was nothing compassionate about the way FEN assisted Doreen Dunn in taking her life and hiding the truth from her family," Backstrom said in a statement.

Final Exit President Janis Landis said the group would appeal the convictions to protect free speech rights and to continue its "advocacy for competent adults to have the right to make their own end-of-life decisions."

It also plans to pay the fine immediately to continue its services in Minnesota, Landis said. Backstrom said prosecutors were looking into civil options to stop the group from offering its services in Minnesota.

Final Exit has said its members can be present but do not encourage, provide the means for or assist in a person's suicide.

Felony charges remain pending against former Final Exit medical director Dr. Lawrence Egbert, 87, and member Roberta Massey, 70. Charges were dismissed against a third Final Exit member and a fourth has died.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Sandra Maler)