April Meeting Review
By George Kane
On April 19, the featured speaker at our public meeting was Jerry Dincin of Chicago, the new president of the Final Exit Network. FEN is a four year old organization that supports the right of individuals to choose the time of their death. Minnesota Atheists has supported this issue since 1999, when we presented an award in absentia to Dr. Jack Kevorkian after a Michigan court convicted him of second degree murder for assisting in the death of a man with terminal ALS.
Dincin told a story of legal persecution even more extreme than the Kevorkian case. While Kevorkian directly participated in the suicide by administering a fatal injection, the Final Exit Network meticulously avoids any active role in suicides. Although FEN provided the information needed to end one’s life painlessly, the client alone was entirely responsible for every step in the process. They took care to avoid ever recommending suicide to a client. The only support the FEN provided was hand-holding, to provide psychological comfort. Kevorkian was a provocateur, who tried to win the battle over assisted suicide by daring the state to prosecute him. The Final Exit Network, to the contrary, meticulously avoided violating any laws.
But the state of Georgia saw things differently. In February they arrested four officers of the Final Exit Network for assisting in a suicide by a member who suffered from cancer of the throat and mouth. Most astonishingly, Georgia decided to shut the FEN down by prosecuting it under Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) law. State and federal RICO laws were written to combat the mafia. In a coordinated operation, Georgia conducted raids in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Montana, and seized $550,000 in FEN bank accounts. The seizures forced them to raise $50,000 for legal expenses so far, and have effectively put the FEN out of operation.
Dincin expects the Final Exit Network and the arrested officers to be cleared of all charges, but that is not likely to happen any time soon. Unlike nearly every other state, Dincin explained, the laws of Georgia do not give defendants the right to a speedy trial. FEN may be kept in legal limbo, with their assets frozen, indefinitely.
An impromptu appeal from Steve Petersen collected over $200 for the FEN’s legal defense fund. Members who wish to donate to their legal defense should call 866-230-2471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
Dincin stated that the Final Exit Network supports clients “who are suffering intolerably from an irreversible condition which has become more than they can bear.” The program of Final Exit Network accepts members with cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, emphysema, and other incurable illnesses.