Final Exit Network responds
To the editor:
This is in reference to the recent indictments of five members of the Final Exit Network by the Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom (May 11 edition).
Mr. Backstrom has portrayed FEN as a group of callous individuals who encourage and assist individuals to commit suicide. Nothing could be further from the truth.
FEN is a nationwide nonprofit all-volunteer organization that works completely in compliance with the laws of each state. We have come together from disparate backgrounds with one goal: to educate the public on right-to-die issues. We never, under any circumstances, suggest, encourage or assist any individual to commit suicide. We provide information on the full range of choices available to individuals if and when they are faced with intractable pain or terminal illness.
Two over-zealous prosecutors have preceded Mr. Backstrom in this misguided and vindictive effort to malign our organization. In Arizona, the jury found one defendant not guilty of the felony charges; two other elderly FEN members agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanors to avoid trials. In Georgia, the state Supreme Court completely threw out the charges against four FEN volunteers; the court agreed with FEN that dissemination of information is a protected First Amendment right.
As to the depiction of FEN as an organization that disregards the wishes of family, needlessly inflicting pain on them – this, too, is a complete fabrication.
FEN’s policy is to encourage individuals who contact us to also contact their families and obtain their understanding and support for their intent to exit. In most cases, this outreach is successful. In some rare cases, family members prefer their own solutions – confinement in a nursing home or mental institution and a prolongation of suffering – over the patient’s own choice as a competent adult. In those cases, FEN’s role is to protect the right of the individual to make their own autonomous decision.
FEN is composed of individuals who are life-affirming and – like most people – wish to continue to enjoy their lives for as long as possible. But we side firmly with the right of individuals to decide when that enjoyment is no longer possible, and in those cases to decide that a death with dignity is the most fitting way to end a life well lived.
President, Final Exit Network