Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Montana Becomes Third State to Permit Physician-Assisted Suicide - But Final Exit Network Asks, 'Is It Enough?'

/PRNewswire/ -- The Montana Supreme Court, on December 31, 2009, made Montana the third state allowing physician-assisted suicide. Oregon's voters, in 1994, had created the landmark decision first, surviving legal challenges when the U.S. Supreme Court, using states' rights as the deciding factor, affirmed the voters' wishes legally in 2005. Washington State became the second in 2008.

Jerry Dincin, president of Final Exit Network (FEN), accepts the Montana victory enthusiastically but with an important reservation: "While it may seem like we are on a roll toward the final human right of the 21st century for great numbers of our citizens, despite the victories in Oregon, Washington, and Montana and the good works of organizations like Compassion and Choices and Hospice, the needs of mentally competent, suffering patients who have not been declared 'terminal' (having fewer than six months to live) have not been addressed. These individuals still often suffer endlessly from an irreversible condition they can no longer bear, where quality of life is a distant memory and all that remains is the reality of an indefinite and hopeless future. Our organization is their only advocate."

FEN is an all-volunteer organization that offers counseling, support, and guidance concerning self-deliverance at a time and place of the individual's choosing. Dincin stresses that "FEN does not encourage anyone to end their life, does not provide the means to do so and does not actively assist in the person's death. We do, however, believe in the ultimate human right of people to end their lives when circumstances justify, and to have support in carrying out their plan."

On February 25, 2009, four elderly volunteers of the Final Exit Network were set up by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent, who falsified medical records and posed as a terminally ill cancer patient wishing to hasten his own death. The four were arrested and released. To date none has even been indicted; no trial date is in sight. Final Exit Network welcomes a trial. (It is clear that the GBI does not, or a date would have been set months ago.) A trial would likely be a breakthrough, permitting the four elderly defendants to escape from limbo, casting some light on some inaccurate assumptions, and enabling FEN to demonstrate that its four volunteers acted within the confines of the law and in compliance with its basic credo: "We offer guidance, information and support but do not 'assist' those whose suffering lies beyond the imagination of those of us who have the luxury of discussing and debating their fate as an interesting issue."

Final Exit Network is a five-year-old volunteer-run non-profit that is committed to serve many whom other organizations may turn away. More information is available from their Web site http://www.finalexitnetwork.org/, or by calling 866-654-9156.

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