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The Final Exit Network is an American all-volunteer organization that assists individuals who are suffering from an intolerable illness. The volunteers offer counseling, support, and guidance for a successful suicide. The organization believes that individuals suffering from intolerable illnesses deserve a dignified death as it may prevent a painful death as a result of the illness.[1] The organization promotes the use of living wills, advance directives, durable powers of attorney for health care, and do not resuscitate orders, and advocates for individuals when their Advance Directives are not being followed.

Final Exit Network was formed in 2004 after the Compassion and Dying Federation was divided into Compassion and Choices, whose efforts primarily promoted legislative change, and Final Exit Network who focused on providing compassionate support. The organization is a member of the World Federation for Right to Die Societies. Its president is Jerry Dincin. Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, is a member of the Final Exit Network's advisory board, and author of the #1 New York Times best seller Final Exit first published in 1991.

The Exit Guide program of Final Exit Network assists many whom other organizations may turn away, accepting people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, emphysema, cancer, and other incurable illnesses including depression and suicidal symptoms. Though, that does not mean they do not accept simply troubled individuals with no serious health threats.


Jana Van Voorhis case and Smith-Appel debate

Members of the Final Exit Network were alleged to have been involved in the death of Arizona woman Jana Van Voorhis in 2007.

The case spawned a public debate between Wesley J. Smith, a prominent opponent of physician-assisted suicide and Professor Jacob Appel of Brown University, a leading advocate of physician-assisted suicide. According to Smith, who opposed the actions of those who assisted Van Voorhis, "Assisted suicide is not about terminal illness. That's a pretext, in terms of the political fight to get people to accept the concept." Smith's view was that "none of us know what our limits are or how we might react to pain or what mental illness might do to us, which is why when someone is suicidal, the rest of us have an even greater obligation not to accept that person's definition necessarily."[2] In contrast, Appel pointed out that the Van Voorhis case demonstrated the need for laws legalizing assisted suicide. His view was that assisted death should preferably take place in the context of the medical system, with licensed health care professionals counseling the dying patient.[3]

On Monday, January 11, 2010, it was reported that former Final Exit Network volunteer, Wye Hale-Rowe "agreed to testify against the three remaining defendants in the case, an aged Scottsdale man who allegedly also assisted Van Voorhis in killing herself, and two senior Final Exit officials from out of state."[4]

Arrests and reaction

On February 25, 2009, four members of the Final Exit Network were arrested for allegedly assisting the suicide of a cancer patient, John Celmer, of Cumming, Georgia.[5].

Those arrested included Ted Goodwin, Claire Blehr, Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert, and Nicholas Alec Sheridan.

Opponents of physician-assisted suicide hailed the arrests. Stephen Drake of the group Not Dead Yet called the actions of the Final Exit Network members murder: “This is predatory. These are people who get off on being there for death. They target certain types of people."[6] Physician-assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian also questioned the group's conduct through an attorney, stating that he believed a physician should be present.[7] On the other hand, left-wing bioethicist Jacob M. Appel called the group "courageous"[8] and bioethics attorney William Colby of the Center for Practical Ethics questioned whether "trying to round up people in groups" was productive.

The four Final Exit Network defendants are expected to plead not guilty to the charges. It is likely to be a crucial test case.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Rubin, Paul. The Last Word. Phoenix News August 22, 2007.
  3. ^ Rubin, Paul. The Last Word. Phoenix News August 22, 2007.
  4. ^ Rubin, Paul. Phoenix New Times January 11, 2010.
  5. ^ Boone, Christian. 4 arrested in Ga. assisted suicide sting. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb 26, 2009
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^

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