A Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday let stand the conviction of a national right-to-die group that assisted in the 2007 suicide of a Dakota County woman.
In May, 2015, a jury found Final Exit Network guilty of assisting Doreen Dunn’s suicide and interfering with the death scene. It was the first time the national group had been convicted of a felony for assisting a suicide.
After the conviction, an attorney for the corporation said they intended to keep operating in the state. The attorney maintained that there was no evidence of assistance, just of advising and encouraging a suicide, which are protected as free speech in Minnesota.
Dunn, 57, of Apple Valley, wrote to the organization in 2007 saying she had lived with unbearable pain for a decade. A few months later, her husband, Mark, found her dead on the couch. She had not told her family she planned to kill herself.
At the trial, prosecutors argued that the group gave Dunn a “blueprint” for ending her life using helium asphyxiation and made efforts to conceal her suicide from family and authorities by removing the equipment she used. Relatives said she wasn’t mentally competent.
Since the case, Final Exit Network said their group has become much more aggressive about seeking out loved ones and relatives, and people with mental illness are more carefully evaluated.
In its 18-page rule Monday, the Appeals Court ruled that state law doesn’t prohibit Final Exit’s policy advocacy for the right to die or the emotional support it provides members by listening to its stories. But the corporation wasn’t convicted on the issue of free speech, rather for instructing another on suicide methods.