Reporting Susie Jones
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The medical director of Final Exit Network is being charged with assisted suicide after the death of an Apple Valley woman in 2007.
A recently-unsealed indictment charges the group Final Exit Network and several of its members with assisting suicide a felony in the death of Doreen Dunn.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said the purpose of Final Exit, a nonprofit based in Georgia, is to assist individuals who wish to end their life.
Backstrom said the group offers information to individuals wishing to end their life, whether they are suffering from a terminal illness or another serious medical condition that makes their life unbearable and the quality of their life unacceptable.
He said they tell them where to purchase items that can be used in a suicide. Backstrom said the group explains to individuals how it’s done. They tell them to purchase a book that was written by Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society, titled “Final Exit.” If they are accepted, they have to pay a $50 fee, and then they are given an exit guide.
Backstrom said they will come to help in the suicide and take all evidence with them.
“Under Minnesota law, it is a crime to encourage, advise or assist another to take their own life,” Backstrom said.
It is also a felony to tamper with a crime scene, he said.
Doreen Dunn, who lived in Apple Valley, died on May 30, 2007. She was found by her husband — alone, dead on the couch where she spent a lot of time because of her illness.
Backstrom said her husband called the police and the medical examiner. Both concluded that she died from natural causes, and there was no evidence to indicate otherwise.
“It wasn’t until almost three years later that the Apple Valley Police were again contacted in connection with this case, after an investigation was started in the state of Georgia,” said Backstrom.
That case, he said, involved a suicide, and charges of assisted suicide.
“In the course of that investigation in Georgia, they seized documents from Final Exit Network, which included references to Doreen Dunn,” he said.
There are also prosecutions brought in the state of Arizona.
The group claims it is a free speech issue.
“We will see what our Supreme Court says in connection with this case. Actually there is an appeal right now,” he said.
Backstrom said if the people of Minnesota wish to authorize assisted suicide, it needs to be done through clearly defined laws, enacted by our state legislature with proper restrictions and rules in place.