History

2019
  • January 1 — The Hawaii Our Care, Our Choice Act goes into effect, making Hawaii the seventh U.S. jurisdiction to enact a comprehensive law authorizing PAD.
  • August 1 — The New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act takes effect, making New Jersey the eighth jurisdiction to enact a PAD law.
  • September 15 — The Maine Death With Dignity Act goes into effect, making Maine the ninth U.S. jurisdiction to enact a PAD law
  • In chronological order, the jurisdictions with PAD laws are Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine. Montana has no comprehensive PAD law but decriminalized PAD via a judicial decision. The New York Times reports that 22 percent of Americans “live in places where residents with six months or less to live can, in theory, exercise some control over the time and manner of their deaths.”
2018
  • FEN files a civil action in U.S. District Court to strike down the Minnesota law as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The court dismisses the action on technical jurisdictional bases.
  • Thus, by the close of 2018, all of the litigation spawned by the 2009 arrests is over. Notably, no individual FEN volunteer has ever been convicted by a jury of anything. The State of Minnesota virtually abandoned the initially announced purpose of its prosecution by convicting only the corporation. No volunteer for FEN has ever been sentenced to jail. No volunteer for FEN has ever pleaded guilty to a felony. Of eight volunteer Exit Guides charged with serious felonies in Georgia, Arizona, and Minnesota (two of them in two states each, and one of them, Dr. Egbert, in all three), three Exit Guides have voluntarily pleaded guilty to minor misdemeanors with minimal probation and fines in order to put the stress behind them. By any standard, the prosecutions have been a failure.
2017
  • February 18 — The D.C. Death with Dignity Act goes into effect, making Washington, D.C. the sixth jurisdiction in the U.S. to enact a PAD law along the lines of the Oregon law.
  • FEN petitions the Supreme Court of Minnesota to review the FEN’s conviction on First Amendment free speech grounds. The Supreme Court of Minnesota denies review. FEN petitions the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States denies certiorari.
2016
  • June 9 — Dr. Egbert, 88, dies of a heart attack at his home near Baltimore. While Roberta Massey’s trial remains theoretically pending, it appears unlikely she will ever be brought to trial because of her illnesses. Eventually, - 12 -
    she enters a guilty plea to a minor misdemeanor in order to terminate the stress.
  • November 8 — Colorado becomes the fifth state to enact a comprehensive physician aid-in-dying law as voters passed the End of Life Options Act. The law goes into effect on December 16, 2016.
  • In December, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota rule against the FEN, affirming its conviction.
2015
  • May 4 — The Minnesota trial begins. By now, the defendants include only the corporation, Final Exit Network, Inc.; its former medical director, Dr. Larry Egbert; and a former case coordinator, Robert Massey. Massey’s case is severed from the rest of the case and her trial is indefinitely continued because her health conditions would not enable her to withstand a trial. The State severs the trial of Dr. Egbert from the trial of the corporation in order to compel Dr. Egbert to testify as a witness. Thus, only the corporation goes on trial.
  • May 14 — The jury finds the corporation guilty of assisting in a suicide. The conviction is made inevitable because the jury was instructed to convict FEN if it found that FEN’s personnel spoke “words” that “enabled” the “suicide,” which the Network openly admits to doing. At the trial, there was not the slightest evidence of tangible “assistance” in the “suicide.” FEN appeals, arguing that the First Amendment prohibits a conviction solely for speech, as opposed to conduct.
  • August 24 — At a sentencing hearing, FEN’s attorney and president tell he judge that FEN is “unrepentant.” The judge sentences FEN to the maximum sentence: a fine of $30,000, plus restitution of $3,000. FEN elected to pay its fine immediately, thereby making it legally impossible for the judge — as he said he wanted to do — to require FEN to serve a term of years on probation, which would have prohibited FEN from providing Exit Guide services in Minnesota. FEN thus incurs no punishment but the fine and restitution. At the start, the prosecutor had announced he intended to prohibit FEN from ever operating in Minnesota again. Judged by that standard, the prosecution is a complete failure.
  • October 5 — California Governor Jerry Brown signs the End of Life Options Act into law, making California the fourth state to legalize PAD. Attempts to pass the law had been defeated for years until Brittany Maynard became the new face of the Death With Dignity movement.
2014
  • March 19 — In State v. Melchert-Dinkel, an older case unrelated to the Minnesota case against the Network volunteers, the Supreme Court of Minnesota holds that one may be charged with a crime “for assisting another in committing suicide, but not for encouraging or advising another to commit suicide.” The Network had submitted a brief amicus curiae to argue in favor of this position. Yet the Minnesota Supreme Court says one may be convicted of “assisting” in a “suicide” based on “words” that “enable” the suicide, thus re-opening the door to convicting a person solely for the exercise of the First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech.
  • June 17 — Having previously granted “further review” of the October 30, 2013 decision in the Network’s favor by the Court of Appeals of Minnesota, the Supreme Court of Minnesota withdraws its decision to review the Court of Appeals’ decision, thus letting it stand. The stay of proceedings in the trial court is dissolved and the trial may proceed.
  • November 1 — Brittany Maynard, 29, a telegenic, articulate Californian, dies in Oregon by making use of the Oregon PAD law. Suffering from brain cancer, she moved from California to Oregon specifically to avail herself of Oregon’s PAD law and became the word’s best known public crusader for PAD. She wrote an opinion piece for CNN entitled "My Right to Death with - 11 - Dignity.” People magazine’s website had more than 16 million unique visitors to its story on her impending death. She pleaded for passage of a PAD law in California.
2013
  • March 22 — The District Court in Dakota County rules that the Minnesota law violates the First Amendment. Under her ruling, the State’s case appears to be gutted because the State may not convict a defendant for merely “advising” on suicide, a term so vague that it prohibits nearly any form of communication about self-deliverance. The State appeals to the intermediate Court of Appeals of Minnesota. In the meantime, the proceedings in Dakota County on the indictment remain on hold. In this decision, the Minnesota judge dismissed all charges against Ted Goodwin, a former president of the Network. - 10 -
  • March 26 — Jerry Dincin, a distinguished psychologist, former president of the Network, and one of the volunteers under indictment in Minnesota, dies after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 82 and lived in Highland Park, Illinois. His wife, Suzanne Streicker, said he entered hospice and slipped into his final coma only hours before he would have been told of the District Court’s March 22 decision in Minnesota. The Minnesota charges against him, of course, are dismissed as moot.
  • May 20 — Under “Act 39: Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life,” Vermont became the third state in the country (after Oregon and Washington) to legalize PAD.
  • October 30 — The intermediate Court of Appeals of Minnesota rules in favor of the Network defendants even more firmly than the Dakota County trial court had. The Court of Appeals’ scholarly, 18-page opinion finds that not only is the Minnesota statute’s prohibition on “advising” about “suicide” unconstitutional, but so is the statute’s prohibition against “encouraging” a suicide. The statute may only be applied if the State proves that a defendant provided “assistance” in a suicide, and not based merely on “advising” or “encouraging.”
2012
  • February 6 — The Supreme Court of Georgia rules in Final Exit Network v. Georgia that the Georgia statue on aiding in a suicide violates the First Amendment. The law is stricken in its entirety. All the Georgia charges against the Network and its members are dismissed.
  • May 1 — Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signs into law a replacement for the Georgia statute on assisting in a suicide. This time, the law is carefully written — moreso than most such statutes in America — to steer clear of denying any First Amendment-protected free speech rights. It defines “assistance” in a suicide to include only “direct physical” assistance, which precludes a prosecution for speech alone.
  • May 11— A grand jury in Hastings, Minnesota (Dakota County) indicts the Network and four of its volunteers on various charges related to alleged assistance in a 2007 self-deliverance, including a charge of “advising, encouraging, or assisting” in a “suicide.” This prosecution stems directly from evidence seized by the GBI in the Georgia case and later provided to the Dakota County prosecutor. The defendants are all released on their own recognizance pending trial. Within months the defendants all file motions to dismiss the charges of “advising, encouraging, or assisting” in a “suicide” on grounds that they violate the defendants’ First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech.
2011
  • April 4 — Trial begins in the Phoenix case. Before trial, two defendants, Wye Hale-Rowe and Roberta Massey, had agreed to plead guilty to minor misdemeanors (in exchange for the State’s dropping of the felony charges of assisting in a suicide) and testify against the other defendants, Dr. Egbert and volunteer Exit Guide Frank Langsner.
  • April 19 — The trial court judge in the Georgia case denies the defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment against them. The defendants immediately appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia, arguing that the Georgia statute against assisting in a suicide deprives them of their First Amendment rights.
  • April 21 — The jury in the Phoenix trial finds Dr. Egbert not guilty and is unable to reach a verdict in the case against Langsner, thus causing a mistrial. The State later announces that it will retry Langsner, but instead later enters into a plea bargain to let him plead guilty to a minor - 9 - misdemeanor, as had Hale-Rowe and Massey. All three are sentenced to a year on probation. None admitted to “assisting in a suicide.” None pleaded guilty to any felony, only to one misdemeanor each.
  • June 3 — Jacob “Jack” Kevorkian dies (of natural causes, without assistance) at the age of 83.
  • November 7 — The Supreme Court of Georgia hears the arguments on the Network defendants’ appeal.
2010
  • April 24 — You Don’t Know Jack, a made-for-TV movie, airs for the first time on the HBO cable channel. Al Pacino wins an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for his quirky, but sympathetic portrayal Dr. Kevorkian. Nearly two decades after he shocked the world with his assistance in suicides, public opinion has changed. His portrayal in the movie and the public’s acceptance of it show that he is regarded as a folk hero.
2009
  • February 25 — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) launches an attack on FEN, using the Georgia racketeering law to claim that the Network is a criminal conspiracy. Four Network volunteers are arrested. Network funds in the amount of almost $325,000 are seized, along with another $10,000 in funds of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. Key Network members’ homes are searched and records and computers seized. Internal GBI documents later revealed that the GBI intended to “dismantle” the Network on this date and shut it down permanently. The effort fails. FEN promptly regroups and begins an aggressive defense. Documents released to FEN in the criminal proceedings later show that the GBI had never expected to have to prove their case at a trial.
  • May 12 — A Phoenix, Arizona grand jury indicts four Network volunteers, including FEN’s medical director, Dr. Lawrence Egbert, who had also been charged in the Georgia case. The Arizona indictment thus brings to seven the number of Network volunteers facing charges. The four Arizona defendants surrender in Phoenix and are released on bail. The Arizona and Georgia cases are related in that the police in both jurisdictions were sharing information and coordinating their efforts.
  • October 7 — A Georgia judge rules that the Network was denied due process of law in the seizure of its funds, and therefore orders the funds released.
  • Meanwhile, based on information seized it the Arizona and Georgia investigations, the GBI sends hundreds of letters to law enforcement - 8 - agencies in most states, identifying Network-supported self-deliverances over the entire life of the Network and exhorting the law enforcement agencies to prosecute the Network and its volunteers. Not a single state law enforcement agency takes the bait until a publicity seeking Minnesota prosecutor obtains an indictment in 2012 for an exit that took place in 2007. Thus, the Minnesota prosecution is a spinoff of the Georgia investigation and all the alleged crimes in Arizona, Georgia, and Minnesota took place around the same time in 2017.
  • December 31 — The Supreme Court of Montana, in Baxter v. State, holds that a physician cannot be prosecuted for providing PAD in appropriate circumstances. As a result, some say Montana is a state where PAD is “legal.” However, the Montana Supreme Court ruling is narrow and limited and, unlike the PAD laws of Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, does not provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for PAD. Since Baxter, the Montana legislature has refused to enact a PAD law. Civil and regulatory issues make PAD problematic for physicians in Montana.
2008
  • In the November election, the citizens of Washington state approve the Washington State Death with Dignity Act by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent (a much less close margin than that in Oregon 14 years earlier), making Washington the second state to legalize PAD.
2007
  • June 1 — Jack Kevorkian is paroled from prison on the condition that he not assist in any more suicides. He had served eight years of a 10-to-25-year sentence.
2005
  • FEN provides its support services to 24 members across the country in their self-deliverance. The annual number continues to grow until the arrests of 2009.
2004
  • July 1 — End-of-Life Choices merges with Compassion in Dying to become Compassion & Choices. A large group of board members from End-of-Life Choices resigns in protest. The Hemlock Society of Florida, EOLC’s Florida affiliate, renounces its affiliation with EOLC and keeps its historic name.
  • September — The disaffected former EOLC board members, combined with Derek Humphry and many other movement leaders, forms Final Exit Network. In 2004 FEN provided compassionate support – not any illegal form of “assistance” – in one member’s self-deliverance.
2003
  • July 21 — The Hemlock Society changes its name to End-of-Life Choices. The Hemlock Society of Florida refuses to change its name.
2002
  • The Hemlock Society Board of Directors adopts a blueprint for a public advocacy campaign. The campaign seeks to:
    • Form a speakers' bureau;
    • Revitalize local chapters and form new ones;
    • Bring together a coalition of groups with strong representation in Washington, D.C.;
    • Implement a bold legislative strategy seeking to prevent the federal government from taking choice away from the states and use the national effort to bring political credibility to this movement; and
    • Increase membership in and donations to the organization.
1999
  • March 26 — Dr. Kevorkian is convicted of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance. Sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison, he is eligible for parole in May 2007.
1998
  • March 24 — Oregon records the first legal physician-assisted death under the state's Death with Dignity Act.
  • June 5 — Attorney General Janet Reno says the Justice Department will not apply federal law to interfere with the Oregon law. Physicians are free to prescribe lethal drugs for qualified patients who request them without fear of penalty. - 6 -
  • November 22 — During an interview with Mike Wallace on CBS's “60 Minutes,” Jack Kevorkian shows videotape of how he injected a lethal drug to bring about the death of 52-year old Thomas Youk of suburban Detroit. Kevorkian invites the authorities to prosecute him.
  • November 25 — The Oakland County, Michigan, prosecutor indicts Dr. Kevorkian on charges of first-degree murder, assisting a suicide in violation of the Michigan law, and administering a controlled substance without a medical license (of which he had been stripped). Kevorkian remains free without bail and says that if he is convicted he will starve himself to death in prison (which he later chose not to do).
1997
  • January 31 — In the Hemlock Society-sponsored Florida case, state court Judge Joe Davis rules that both the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution of Florida guarantee the right to PAD to a terminally ill, imminently dying, competent adult. Judge Davis enjoins the state from punishing Dr. Cecil Mciver for assisting the lone surviving patient, Charles Hall, in his death. The State appeals within an hour, thus invoking an automatic stay of the ruling, but Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lucy Brown immediately vacates the automatic stay; almost as quickly, the appeals court reverses her order, reinstating the stay of the injunction. Thus, for two brief periods, Mr. Hall became the only person in America ever to have a right to legal PAD under a court’s order. He chose not to die at that time.
  • February 27 — Concerning Oregon's Measure 16, a three judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rules that the lawsuit challenging the Oregon Death with Dignity Act must be dismissed because those who are challenging the law lack legal “standing,” which is to say, they cannot show that they themselves face an immediate threat of harm. In - 5 - practical effect, this ruling means (as the supporters of the law had always argued) nobody would ever have legal standing to sue to have the law declared unconstitutional because the law does not affect anybody except those who voluntarily choose PAD under the law.
  • March 24 — Australia's parliament overturns the Northern Territory law sanctioning euthanasia and assisted suicide. At issue, in addition to the "conscience vote" on euthanasia, is whether a territory has the authority to pass such a law.
  • June 26 — In Washington v. Glucksberg and Quill v. Vacco, the Supreme Court of the United States reverses the Ninth and Second U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, holding that there is no constitutional right to PAD. The Court held that while the Constitution does not require the states to allow PAD, it does allow them to decide for themselves whether to legalize it or criminalize it, setting the stage for a state-by-state political battle over proposals to legalize and regulate PAD.
  • July 17 — In Krischer v. McIver, the Supreme Court of Florida follows the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Glucksberg and Quill, but also rules that the privacy provision of the Florida constitution likewise does not guarantee a terminally ill, imminently dying, competent adult the right to PAD.
  • August 26 — Janet Good, 73, a lifelong civil rights activist who founded the Hemlock Society of Michigan in her living room, dies an assisted death near Detroit. She had assisted Dr. Kevorkian for years. She is later played by Susan Sarandon in the HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack.
  • October 14 — The Supreme Court of the United States refuses to hear an appeal from the February 27, 1997 decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Oregon’s Measure 16, thus ensuring that patients may finally receive physician aid-in-dying under the law’s provisions.
  • November 4 — Oregon voters reject Measure 51, which would have repealed Measure 16, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
1996
  • February 16 — The Hemlock Society and ACLU of Florida jointly file a lawsuit in Florida state court, seeking to establish a constitutional right to PAD. While this case makes the same arguments as plaintiffs made in the Washington and New York cases as to the federal constitution, it also argues that the privacy provision of Florida’s state constitution secures the right to PAD to competent, terminally ill adults.
  • April 2 — In Quill v. Vacco, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the New York trial court’s dismissal of Dr. Quill’s action. The appeals court rules that PAD is a right protected by the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution in that there is no logical difference between PAD and terminal sedation or other forms of death caused by the termination of artificial forms of life support. The State of New York appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States, where this appeal is consolidated with the Washington case, which is now called Washington v. Glucksberg.
1995
  • March 9 — The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms Judge Rothstein’s decision in Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington, finding that Washington’s statute prohibiting assistance in suicide is unconstitutional to the extent that it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship when a physician seeks to assist a terminally ill, imminently dying, competent adult patient in his death. The State of Washington appeals this decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • May 15 — Dr. Jack Kevorkian is acquitted of charges that he violated the common law of Michigan by assisting in the deaths of Marjorie Wantz and Sherry Miller.
  • September 22 — In Australia, the first case of legally assisted death occurs in Darwin under a new law of the Northern Territory, which became effective on July 1.
  • November 13 — Janet Good, founder of The Hemlock Society of Michigan, - 4 - is indicted on charges of assisting in a suicide and practicing medicine without authorization. She had worked with Dr. Kevorkian in many hastened deaths. Her indictment is later dropped because of her deteriorating health. She is suffering from pancreatic cancer.
1994
  • January 24 — The Washington-based right-to-die group Compassion in Dying, a predecessor of today’s Compassion and Choices, joined by five doctors and three patients, files a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. They seek a court declaration that Washington State’s law against assisting in a suicide is unconstitutional as applied to prevent a terminally ill, imminently dying, competent adult from obtaining the assistance of a willing physician in his death. They argue that such PAD is within a zone of individual privacy protected by the due process and equal protection clauses of the constitution. The case is called Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington.
  • May 3 — Ruling in Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington, U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein finds Washington’s statute against assisting in a suicide unconstitutional. The State of Washington appeals to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. - 3 -
  • July 1 — An “anti-Kevorkian law” takes effect in Georgia. The sponsor says section 16-5-5(b) of the Georgia Statutes was enacted to keep “Dr. Kevorkian or someone like him” from “coming to Georgia.” In 2012 Final Exit Network will persuade the Supreme Court of Georgia to declare this statute unconstitutional.
  • July 20 — A group of physicians and patients led by Dr. Timothy Quill file suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan. They seek a court declaration that New York’s law against assisting in a suicide is unconstitutional on the same legal theories as those in the Washington State case. This case comes to be known as Quill v. Vacco.
  • November 8 — Oregon voters pass Measure 16, the first PAD law in the world, by 51 percent to 49 percent. Opponents of aid in dying promptly bring a federal court lawsuit seeking to enjoin Measure 16 from being enforced, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
  • December 7 — In the Oregon lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Hogan enters a preliminary injunction that suspends Measure 16 from becoming effective pending further review by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • December 15 –– A New York federal district judge rules against Dr. Quill and his co-plaintiffs, dismissing Quill v. Vacco. The plaintiffs appeal to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
1993
  • The Hemlock Society forms the Patients' Rights Organization-USA, a political action organization.
  • The Netherlands codifies guidelines into laws, giving physicians permission to perform euthanasia without the fear of prosecution if they follow the guidelines.
1991
  • Patient Self-Determination Act takes effect. This federal law requires nursing homes, hospitals, home-health agencies, hospices, and HMOs to provide patients with information on state laws governing advance directives.
  • Derek Humphry publishes the first edition of Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. The very existence of this self-help book is considered controversial, yet it has been banned only in France. It was the No. 1 bestselling nonfiction book in America for 18 weeks and has sold over a million copies. In 2011 Dell published the latest updated edition. Final Exit has been translated into 12 languages. In April 2007 the editors and book critics of the USA Today selected Final Exit as one of the 25 most memorable books of the last quarter century.
1990
  • June 4 — Dr. Jack Kevorkian assists Janet Adkins, 54, an accomplished musician and Alzheimer’s sufferer, in ending her life. Charged with a crime, Dr. Kevorkian defeated the charge because Michigan had no law against assisting in a suicide. He went on to assist at least 130 people in self deliverance, generating an extraordinary amount of publicity on the subject, and on the state’s repeated, unsuccessful efforts to convict him of crimes in other cases.
  • June 25 — In Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, the United States Supreme Court rules that for patients who are in a comatose or - 2 - vegetative state, life support and medical treatment can be suspended if there is clear and convincing evidence that this is the course of action they would request if they could do so.
1986
  • The Hemlock Society drafts model legislation to further the cause of legalizing Physician Aid-in-Dying or Physician Assisted Death (“PAD”). Titled The Humane and Dignified Death Act, this model bill is sent to legislators throughout the country. Opponents coin the term “physician assisted suicide.”
1984
  • The Hemlock Society begins national campaign to promote education concerning advance directives.
1980
  • Derek Humphry founds The Hemlock Society in Los Angeles.
1976
  • California passes the Natural Death Act, the nation's first Living Will law.
1975
  • March 29 – Jean Humphry, who is suffering from terminal breast cancer, dies at her home in the Cotswolds region of England. Her husband, Derek, a newspaper reporter, assisted her in her self-deliverance. He writes a book, Jean’s Way: A Love Story, which becomes a bestseller. Mr. Humphry devotes the rest of his life to the campaign for the legalization of aid-indying and euthanasia. He is one of the founders of Final Exit Network.
1969
  • Elizabeth Kubler-Ross publishes "On Death and Dying," a seminal publication that opens discussion of the taboo subject of death.
1938
  • The Euthanasia Society of America founded.
1906
  • The first euthanasia bill is drafted in Ohio.