Members of the Final Exit Network will turn themselves in after being charged in the death of an Apple Valley woman.
The debate over the right to die could return this week as members of the Final Exit Network turn themselves in to Dakota County authorities.
Four members of the New Jersey-based right-to-die group were indicted by a Dakota County grand jury in May.
At least three of them are expected to be fingerprinted, photographed and booked into the county jail Monday when they make their initial court appearance.
Final Exit provides information on suicide methods. Officials of the group believe the charges — interfering with a death scene and assisting in a suicide — are political grandstanding by County Attorney James Backstrom and that state law on assisted suicides is unconstitutional.
“I think it’s a misguided prosecution, bottom line,” said Wendell Stephenson, a community college professor in Fresno, Calif., and president of the Final Exit Network.
The four defendants and the organization were indicted on 17 counts in connection with the death of Doreen Dunn, a 57-year-old Apple Valley woman who committed suicide in 2007 in her home.
At the time, Dunn’s death was ruled to be from coronary artery disease. The charges state that two Final Exit members were with Dunn when she died.
Along with information, the group provides “guides” to be present at the time of death, including holding hands at the end. The guides will remove signs of suicide if asked.
Dunn, who had suffered from chronic pain for about 10 years, joined the Final Exit Network and obtained an “exit guide” from the group. She then killed herself, apparently with helium and a plastic bag.
Backstrom said the bag and helium tank were removed from Dunn’s room.
Dr. Lawrence Egbert, of Baltimore and the network’s medical director at the time of Dunn’s death, and Jerry Dincin from Highland Park, Ill., who worked on Dunn’s case, face four counts, including two felonies each.
Roberta Massey of Delaware was indicted on three counts, including two felonies, and Thomas Goodwin of Atlanta and Florida faces two counts, one a felony.
Robert Rivas, the network’s attorney, said the three will be released after booking while they await their trial.
Backstrom said he has been told that Dincin is too ill to attend Monday’s court date.
This is the third time in recent years prosecutors have gone after the group, including cases in Arizona last year and a Georgia case that was thrown out this year after that state’s supreme court ruled that the law prohibiting assisted suicide was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
Rivas said he will make the same argument in Minnesota.
The Arizona case resulted in no convictions for assisting in a suicide. Rivas said no member has ever been convicted of that anywhere in the country.