AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia assisted suicide group facing trial this week

Jury selection begins today for Final Exit Network and its 87-year-old medical director, accused of helping a Minnesota woman to kill herself in 2007. At first, the woman was thought to have died of natural causes, The Minnesota Star-Tribune reports. But after GBI provided information about the nonprofit, it and several individuals were indicted.

Four members  of Final Exit Network, including medical director Lawrence Egbert, faced similar charges in Georgia after the 2008 suicide of a Forsyth man, who killed himself two years after he was diagnosed with cancer. They were charged with violating the state's assisted suicide law, racketeering and tampering with evidence. But in February 2012, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down key provisions of the assisted suicide law as a violation of free speech rights. The justices said the law was unconstitutional because it did not prohibit all assisted suicides, but rather criminalized only those in which someone advertised or offered to assist in a suicide and then took steps to help carry it out. A few months later, Gov. Deal signed a new ban on assisted suicides.

In Minnesota, prosecutors can allege only that Final Exit Network and Egbert, of Baltimore, directly assisted in the suicide of Doreen Dunn, the Star-Tribune reports. Egbert is an anesthesiologist, but late last year Maryland revoked his medical license after he was accused of assisting in the suicides of six patients.

Final Exit Network incorporated in Georgia in 2004 and listed a Kennesaw address for several years, its tax returns show. Recent returns show an Ohio address.

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.