May 25, 2012
On May 14, 2012, a Minnesota grand jury indicted a national right-to-die group, Final Exit Network, for its actions in the suicide of a Minnesota woman in 2007. Final Exit Network has also been implicated in two other lawsuits in Georgia and Arizona for its participation in suicides in those states; however, most of the claims in those suits were dismissed because it was found that the group was only exercising its free speech rights in directing the decedents on how to commit suicide and in advertising its services to the general public. See, Steve Karnowski’s AP report: 5/14/12 AP Online Reg. – US 22:18:32.
To keep track of the criminal indictment in the Minnesota case, you can set up a Westclip in ST-CRFILING-ALL with this query: (DT(INDICTMENT) & “final exit network” )
The docket for the Georgia case can be found by searching docket number 2010CV187203 in the Georgia Dockets (or, DOCK-GA-ALL onWestlaw Classic) .
Final Exit Network is the latest in a long line cases grappling with issues emanating from the use of medical assistance to hasten the end of life. Some of the most notable cases include: Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 US 261, 110 S. Ct. 2841, 111 L. Ed. 2d 224 (1990) (finding that a mentally competent person has a constitutionally protected right to refuse unwanted medical treatment); Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 117 S. Ct. 2258, 138 L. Ed. 2d 772 (1997) (finding that there was no “fundamental liberty interest” in a right to assistance in committing suicide); Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243, 126 S. Ct. 904, 163 L. Ed. 2d 748 (2006) (holding that the federal “Controlled Substances Act” provided no basis for preventing physician-assisted suicide under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act”).
Only two states, Washington and Oregon, codified laws that allow physician-assisted suicide. Oregon’s law, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, can be found at O.R.S. § 127.800 et. seq. and the Washington Death with Dignity Act can be found at West’s RCWA 70.245.010 et. seq. In Baxter v. State, 2009 MT 449, 354 Mont. 234, 224 P.3d 1211, the Montana Supreme Court also legalized physician assisted suicide, but the Montana legislature has not yet codified this rule. In most other states, aiding and abetting suicide is a crime and some states have specifically criminalized physician-assisted suicide. See the Westlaw 50-State Survey: Aggravating and Mitigating Factors for Homicide, 0030 SURVEYS 28
A rather simple search of “right to die” or “physician-assisted suicide” in ALLCASES in Westlaw or All State and Federal materials in WestlawNext will also bring up a wealth of materials on this subject.
It is clear that unless one is a resident of Oregon, Washington, or Montana, seeking the help of a physician or other person in terminating one’s life could be quite precarious. For this reason, many have chosen to travel to Switzerland, which has the most lenient physician-assisted suicide laws in the world. This practice, known as “death tourism” or “suicide tourism” is rather controversial and has led to heightened scrutiny of Switzerland and its laws. An interesting article on the subject can be found at:
Alexander R. Safyan, A Call for International Regulation of the Thriving “Industry” of Death Tourism, 33 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 287 (2011)