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Pioneer Press, Letters to the Editor for December 27, 2016


On Dec. 19, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Final Exit Network for “speech” that enabled one of its members to commit suicide after suffering severe chronic pain for more than a decade. The “crime” was giving this person a web-page address to purchase the best-selling book, Final Exit, which is widely available in public libraries.

The book, by Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society, the original right-to-die organization, has a section that describes ways in which a dying person may consider hastening the end of their life if suffering is unbearable. It also explores the moral, legal, psychological and family relationship aspects of dying and hastened death. It strongly encourages the consideration of all other alternatives and options and supports the use of living wills and medical counseling to prepare for end-of-life choices.

If merely sharing information about such a book is illegal in Minnesota, our freedom of choice and speech is sadly restricted. Final Exit Network will appeal the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court to restore these liberties. I hope readers will join our effort.

— Gary M. Wederspahn, South St. Paul
The writer is a board member of Final Exit Network

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In a legal case testing whether Final Exit Network is allowed to teach about self-deliverance, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota has upheld the volunteer group’s 2015 conviction for “assisting” in a “suicide.”

Final Exit Network, Inc. — the corporation only, not any individual — was found guilty on May 14, 2015 of a felony, “assisting” in a “suicide,” and appealed for the Court of Appeals to reverse the conviction.

“This court was just one step on the appellate ladder,” said the Network’s president, Janis Landis. “Whether we won or lost in this court, we always knew the case would have to go to the Supreme Court of Minnesota, and maybe beyond. So now we’ll step up to the next court. We’re in this to stay until we obtain justice.”

The evidence at the trial in Dakota County, Minnesota showed that Exit Guides and other Network personnel gave information and support to the decedent, Doreen Dunn, 57. The evidence showed the Network volunteers provided no physical assistance in Ms. Dunn’s death on May 30, 2007, but only exercised their First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech.

The jury was instructed that it was required to convict the corporation if its personnel gave Ms. Dunn instructions about how to terminate her suffering. “Once that jury instruction was given, we had little or no hope of being found ‘not guilty’ by the jury,” said Robert Rivas, the Network’s general counsel.

The trouble for the Network in the trial court and the Court of Appeals stemmed from an unrelated case involving a nurse from Faribault, Minnesota named William Francis Melchert-Dinkel. In his case, the Supreme Court of Minnesota held in 2014 that one could be convicted of “assisting” in a “suicide” for communicating “words” that “enabled” a “suicide.”

In an 18-page opinion released on Monday, December 19, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court’s jury instruction was properly based on the precedent established in the Melchert-Dinkel decision. The Court of Appeals repeatedly said it had no authority to overrule the Supreme Court of Minnesota. Therefore, the court held, it was compelled to affirm the Network’s conviction.

The trial court last year sentenced the corporation to pay the maximum $33,000 fine. Though a conviction for “assisting” in a “suicide” could carry a 15-year prison sentence for an individual, nobody could receive a prison sentence because only the corporation was tried and convicted.

Final Exit Network, PO Box 10071, Tallahassee, FL 32302

Full court decision at this link:

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The newest Death with Dignity law, the Colorado End of Life Options Act, went into effect 17 December 2016, after Governor Hickenlooper signed it into law. Colorado thus becomes the 5th state with an assisted dying statute. Qualified terminally ill Coloradans may now legally request and obtain medication to hasten their death.

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Dear Supporter of ERGO,
I know that you are being bombarded with appeals for financial support — some every day and currently also the usual end-of-year pleas.

ERGO (Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization) makes this one appeal a year. Founded in l993, we are tax-deductible 501c3.

What does this small group do? We issue several times a week this digest of world news concerning issues of choices in dying. (There are more than 3,000 subscribers.) We have an internet bookstore supplying quality literature and a blog. Thousands of newcomers consult our literature daily.

Because of the fame of our books (notably Final Exit and Jean’s Way) we receive phone calls and emails every day from people needing advice with end-of-life problems of their own or family.
We have no office and no staff, except volunteers. But there are expenses – utilities, postage, internet fees, outsourcing of some tasks such as technical support, printing, book-keeping and legal.

Right from when we were the Hemlock Society starting in l980, we have always had two missions: (1) fight for medical aid-in-dying laws; (2) provide factual and moral support for persons who have a compassionate reason to end their lives but no helpful law.

Please consider giving ERGO what help you can. Details in the box at the bottom of this email. Thank you.
Derek Humphry, president, ERGO (based in Oregon)
ergo@finalexitorg. www.finalexit.org
Snailmail to ERGO, 24829 Norris Lane, Junction City, OR 97448

To donate to nonprofit ERGO via internet:

Broad Support for Medical Aid in Dying in MN Poll Results

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (Sept. 2016)

A new survey among likely voters in Minnesota finds broad and deep support for medical aid in dying. In principle, Minnesotans believe medical aid in dying should be a legal option for terminally ill individuals by a margin of 53 points, 73 percent – 20 percent, including 55 percent who strongly believe so.

A similar share of the electorate – 73 percent (49 percent strongly) – supports legislation that would make that option available for people who are over the age of 18, terminally ill and deemed mentally capable by medical experts.

The breadth of the support for this legislation is striking. There is bi-partisan support for this legislation and support across generations, geography and religious faiths.

Finally, the survey also found that 61 percent of voters would be more likely to support a candidate who supports legislation providing a legal option for medical aid in dying while just 21 percent would oppose a candidate who does. Much like support for a legal option itself, support for candidates with this position extends across demographic, religious and partisan lines.
Derek Humphry comments: This astounding public opinion in a state where the Final Exit Network was fined $30,000 earlier this year for giving help to a dying woman!!! (Appeal is pending.)

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Colorado passed a medical aid in dying measure 11/08/16 that will allow
adults suffering from terminal illness to take life-ending,
doctor-prescribed sleeping medication.

The ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly, by a two-thirds, one-third
split, according to unofficial returns. Supporters claimed victory an
hour after polls closed in Colorado.

There are now five states which have passed similar legislation: OR, WA, VT, CA, CO. Montana’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors helping the dying should not be prosecuted. Montana’s legislature has declined to pass or reject such a law.

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<strong/“Memoir on sale February 2017. Can pre-order from Amazon books now.” />

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Washington D.C. Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe fatal drugs to terminally ill residents in the city, making the District the sixth jurisdiction nationwide to allow the practice.

It is the first predominantly black community to legalize so-called “death with dignity,” overcoming objections from some African American residents.

A spokesman for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) declined to say whether the mayor would approve or veto the legislation, although he said Bowser “expects the bill to become law.” The council approved the bill by a vote of 11 to 2. Council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) cast the dissenting votes.

The council still must hold a final vote on the bill, possibly as early as Nov. 15.

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If you are interested in knowing more about how assisted dying is
conducted in the Netherlands, go to this site web site of Royal Dutch
Medical Association:

Viewpoints and guidelines euthanasia (in English):

+KNMG position paper: The role of the physician in the voluntary
termination of life
+Guidelines for the Practice of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted
+Guidelines for the Practice of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted
Suicide – print
+KNMG infographic euthanasie – mei 2016
+Factsheet: Euthanasia in the Netherlands – february 2012


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This email reached ERGO today:

Thank you very much for your message and resources.

My dad was tremendously suffering (ALS, Leukemia, Diabetes, Arthritis,
and other health issues) and due to no physician-assisted suicide in
Minnesota, he shared that he needed to take things into his own hands
before he got so weak and incapacitated that he didn’t have any options…

Again, he was not depressed…and had so much meaning in his life and
quality intimate relationships. As you know, with ALS things ONLY get
worse…never plateau

He died yesterday by a self-inflicted gun shot to the head.

I know this is exactly what he wanted (obviously he wanted to go a more
dignified way…but there are not options)

Thank you for the wonderful work you folks are doing……Julia

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