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Disability Activists Urge Georgia Supreme Court to Uphold Prosecution of Final Exit Network

Author: Not Dead Yet

Published: 2011-11-07


The activists are urging the state Supreme Court to uphold the prosecution of members of Final Exit Network.

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Disability rights activists from Not Dead Yet of Georgia, Georgia ADAPT and Disabled Queers in Action will attend oral argument in the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday, November 7 at 10:00 a.m. in Atlanta.

The activists are urging the state Supreme Court to uphold the prosecution of members of Final Exit Network.

"As a disability rights activist, I see many people struggle every day to get the basic essentials to live and participate in the community," said Zan Thornton of Disabled Queers in Action. "Attitudes based on prejudice are thrown in people's way, so people in our community sometimes feel despair over the never ending struggle for access and acceptance."

The disability activists are very concerned about the highly publicized "assistance" that members of the Final Exit Network (FEN) are willing to give to old, ill and disabled people who want to commit suicide.

Unlike the suicidal feelings that can occur in young, healthy and non-disabled people, FEN reacts to suicidal wishes of the elderly and disabled by applauding and facilitating suicide rather than preventing such tragedies.

Final Exit Network claims that the Georgia law against assisted suicide violates the First Amendment right of free speech.

The statute was passed to address concerns about Jack Kevorkian's activities and the media attention they received. "The overwhelming majority of Kevorkian's body count consisted of people with non-terminal disabilities," said Stephen Drake of national Not Dead Yet, "but many press reports continue to make the mistake of saying he only targeted the terminally ill. The same is true of Final Exit Network."

Not all the charges against FEN rely on the assisted suicide law.

One of the charges involves tampering with the scene of a suicide to pass it off as a natural death.

In addition, an undercover GBI agent, who posed as an FEN client wanting to commit suicide, said he was informed by one of the defendants that part of their "help" would involve holding his hands down to make sure he didn't "inadvertently" rip off the helium-filled bag that would cause his death. There would be no chance to change his mind at the last minute.

"If it turns out that the Court finds part of the statute violates free speech protections, we hope that the assisted suicide ban is still upheld," said Linda Pogue of Georgia ADAPT. "Equal rights should include equal suicide prevention."

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