Prosecution: Group helped Minnesota woman kill herself

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 14, 2015

HASTINGS — Minnesota prosecutors said Wednesday that a national right-to-die group accused of assisting in the suicide of a 57-year-old woman who was suffering from chronic pain provided a “blueprint” for her to take her life, while a defense attorney argued that there’s no evidence that Final Exit Network Inc. did anything illegal.

To convict the group, jurors must find that agents of Final Exit Network intentionally assisted Doreen Dunn in taking her life in 2007. In Minnesota, that assistance can include physical conduct or speech, provided the speech is aimed at giving a specific person instructions on how to end his or her life.

“They go beyond simply advocating a person’s right to choose,” Dakota County prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz told jurors during closing arguments. “This is an organization that directly connects to its members and provides them with the knowledge and means to take their own life. And in the state of Minnesota, that is where the line is crossed.”

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But defense attorney Robert Rivas said the state based its case on emotion and that the group is careful to stay within constitutionally protected speech. He said the group, which is incorporated in Georgia, provides people who choose to end their lives with emotional and philosophical support, and lets them know “they’ve got a friend.”

Final Exit Network is charged with a felony count of assisting in the suicide of Dunn, an Apple Valley woman who had lived with intense pain after a bad reaction to a medical procedure. The group is also charged with interfering with a death scene. The group faces a maximum fine of $33,000 if convicted.