Profile of Right-to-Die Group the Final Exit Network

Get the facts on this controversial organization

Elderly in hospital bed
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The Final Exit Network is a volunteer-run right-to-die organization that believes that competent adults who are suffering have the right to end their own lives.

The organization states that they do not assist in the suicides, which they refer to as "self-deliverance," nor do they provide any equipment to do so. But the Final Exit Network provides counseling, guidance, information on suicide techniques, and support to eligible adults.

Why the Final Exit Network Is Unique

The Final Exit Network is the only right-to-die organization that will assist non-terminally ill patients. The network is also the only right-to-die organization that conducts its own research into new suicide methods. The network also states that it stays on top of current techniques of "self-deliverance" and notifies its members of any changes or problems with methods.

Who Can Be Accepted for Guidance With "Self-Deliverance?"

According to the their website, the Final Exit Network may accept an individual who is a Final Exit Network member, mentally capable, physically strong enough to carry out the act of suicide or has an incurable illness that causes suffering.

The group also accepts individuals who are able to understand and honor the "window of opportunity" to complete the act of suicide, can obtain the necessary equipment and are approved by Final Exit Network's medical director.

Those interested must provide a written letter of intent and a statement from a physician about their diagnosis and prognosis.

What Do Final Exit Guides Do?

The Final Exit Network has over 100 volunteers. When an individual contacts the organization for help, a guide is assigned to her. The guide will help her with the process of approval, give information on where to obtain equipment to carry out the suicide and guidance on how to complete the act.

A Final Exit guide may be present at the suicide, which the network calls a "final event," to offer support to the individual and her loved ones. According to the FEN website, guides do not obtain equipment for individuals or participate in the act of suicide.

Who Can Join the Final Exit Network?

Anyone who believes in the mission of the organization can join. Only members can be accepted into the guide program to receive assistance with their own self-deliverance. Membership costs $50 and proceeds are used to fund "final events," which may include interstate travel costs for the guide, long-distances calls, and medical oversight. Guide services are free to members.

Legal Actions Against the Final Exit Network

Four members of the FEN were arrested in 2009 in connection with the suicide of John Clemens after the network was infiltrated by an undercover Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent. According to doctors, Clemens had been making a "remarkable" recovery from cancer when he requested the help of FEN. Clemens was left disfigured from multiple face and neck surgeries and was having difficulty eating.

The indictment names former network president Thomas E. Goodwin, ex-medical director Dr. Lawrence D.

Egbert, regional coordinator Nicholas Alec Sheridan and member Claire Blehr. The four individuals were indicted by a grand jury in 2010 on charges of offering assistance in the commission of suicide, tampering with evidence and violating the state's anti-racketeering charges.

According to court records, two members of the network, Sheridan and Blehr, held John Clemens hands while he committed suicide, perhaps so he would not be able to pull the hood off.

Another lesser known but interesting case involved a mentally ill but physically healthy 58-year-old woman, Jana Van Voorhis. Van Voorhis committed suicide in her home by helium asphyxiation under the guidance of the Final Exit Network.

The two individuals who provided her guidance, Wye Hale-Rowe and Frank Langsner, were charged with manslaughter after authorities learned the nature of Van Voorhis' death.

Rowe and Langsner began helping Van Voorhis after she contacted the Final Exit Network with a request to end her life. According to authorities, after Van Voorhis committed suicide, the two Final Exit guides placed her body in bed to make it appear a natural death and disposed of evidence of her suicide, including the two helium tanks and the "exit hood."

Also charged in this case are the former Final Exit Network medical director, Dr. Larry Egbert, and Roberta Massey. In January of 2010, Wye Hale-Rowe pleaded guilty to facilitation to commit manslaughter, which is a felony. She struck a deal with the prosecution of this case to testify against the other defendants.

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