Yes. At least, Exit Guide practices are legal in virtually every state in the union.
The crime of “assisting in a suicide” requires that a defendant either provide actual assistance in a suicide or provide the means.
Exit Guides never provide the means, and never provide active physical “assistance” in the “suicide” (a word the law applies to any form of self-hastening of death, no matter how rational or justified it is).
The practices of the Exit Guides are legally protected by the First Amendment-based right to freedom of speech. As Exit Guides only teach, comfort and counsel, their role in their clients’ self-deliverance can’t be a crime. Most states’ laws against assisting in a suicide make clear that the crime cannot be committed by means of mere speech.
There is only one exception. The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that the communicating of “words” that “enable” a “suicide” can constitute the crime of “assisting” in a “suicide” (although the Minnesota statute says no such thing). We believe the Minnesota precedent is directly contrary to the mainstream of American legal thought and the holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States on the application of the First Amendment.
We believe other states will not follow the Minnesota legal theory and it will be discredited in the fullness of time. In the meantime, Final Exit Network is still providing Exit Guide services in Minnesota and will continue to fight in every state for the right to provide information, education, and moral support to those who seek rational self-deliverance.
It is true that Final Exit Network and its volunteers have been charged with crimes in three states. It is also true that authorities have investigated Exit Guide-supported deaths in dozens of instances in which they brought no charges because they concluded no crime occurred. Because investigations remain secret when no charges are brought, it is difficult to count and prove how many times Final Exit Network has been exonerated of suspected charges.
In 2009, the state of Georgia brought 15 serious charges — including five counts of racketeering! — against FEN and four of its volunteers. Georgia intended to send Exit Guides to prison for years.
Before any trial could take place, the Supreme Court of Georgia dismissed all the charges upon declaring that the Georgia law against assisting in a suicide violated the First Amendment-protected right to freedom of speech. The Georgia Legislature immediately enacted a new law, more carefully written, 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.
Also in 2009, the state of Arizona brought charges of “assisting in a suicide” against four FEN volunteers. Two of the defendants were elderly and infirm. Unable to take the stress of having charges pending against them, these two defendants entered into a plea bargain in which they confessed to a minor misdemeanor, paid a fine, and agreed to testify at the trial of the other two.
At the trial, the jury found FEN’s then-medical director, Dr. Larry Egbert, not guilty. The jury could not reach a verdict on the other defendant, Frank Langsner. After Langsner’s retrial was scheduled, the state offered him a plea deal that amounted to little more than an expensive traffic ticket.
Thus, the Arizona charges resulted in one jury finding of not guilty; one hung jury; and three people taking plea deals, not to “assisting in a suicide,” not to any felony at all, but to a minor misdemeanor with a sentence of a fine and no jail time.
In 2012, a Minnesota prosecutor obtained an indictment of Final Exit Network and four of its volunteers, saying his goal was to ensure that FEN never performed Exit Guide services in Minnesota again. His effort proved utterly unsuccessful.
None of the Exit Guides were convicted in the Minnesota proceedings. Only the corporation, Final Exit Network, Inc., was convicted of “assisting in a suicide.” Because a corporation cannot be sentenced to prison, FEN was sentenced to the maximum punishment of a $33,000 fine. FEN was not prohibited from providing Exit Guide services in Minnesota.
In order to convict the corporation, the state of Minnesota — with the endorsement of the Supreme Court of Minnesota — enacted a rule of law that has never been seen before in the United States: That a defendant can be convicted of “assisting in a suicide” without providing the means for the death or any physical assistance. The state proved only that FEN volunteers communicated “words” that “enabled” a “suicide.” We believe this legal theory will be rejected in other jurisdictions and even in Minnesota itself, sooner or later.
We are not an emergency response organization. From first contact to exit, you should plan on a minimum of 6 weeks, though that is exceptional, and the vast majority of our clients follow a much more relaxed schedule.
Though we appreciate the extraordinary amount of suffering caused by mental illness, we do not accept applications for guide support from individuals whose primary medical complaint is mental illness.
In 2011, the FBI raided the home of Sharlotte Hydorn, who made hoods for use with helium. Her hoods are no longer available and we are not aware of anyone else offering anything similar.
Most party balloon kits now contain a helium-air mixture and should NOT be used for self-deliverance.
Final Exit Network does not sell medication, equipment, or anything else.