FBI Charges Four in Assisted Suicide Ring Final Exit Euthanasia Group Sponsored

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 26, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

FBI Charges Four in Assisted Suicide Ring Final Exit Euthanasia Group Sponsored

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 26
, 2009

Atlanta, GA (LifeNews.com) — The FBI has charged four people with violating assisted suicide bans in numerous states after a sting operation determined an assisted suicide ring killed one or more people. An undercover FBI agent posed as a member of the Final Exit euthanasia group that is apparently responsible for the deaths.

At least one 58-year-old man is known to have been helped to kill himself and other deaths may come up as the investigation continues.

The probe now involves eight states, all places where assisted suicide is illegal since Oregon is the only state in the nation to allow the grisly practice. Washington will become the second next week and Montana may be officially the third once a state Supreme Court decision is issued on a lower court case legalizing it.

The FBI is also probing Final Exit, the pro-euthanasia group that was apparently involved and whose volunteers in seven states and a group office in Georgia were raided. A company in Montana that made supplies used in the assisted suicides is also under investigation.

Thomas E. Goodwin, listed as the president of the euthanasia group, and Claire Blehr, a member, were both arrested yesterday at a home in northern Georgia, according to FBI statements.

Lawrence D. Egbert, 81, of Baltimore, listed as the group’s medical director, was arrested, but Nicholas Alec Sheridan, a Baltimore man who is a regional coordinator for the group, is still at large.

The charges are related to the June 2008 death of John Celmer, a Georgia resident who killed himself using an assisted suicide bag the Montana company manufactured.

Betty Celmer, the man’s mother, told news outlets that her son was depressed from having throat cancer.

Another death involving an Arizona woman may have been arranged by the group and deaths in other states could have been as well, though officials are investigating.

The group and its leaders and members claim they are not actually assisting a suicide because they are not actively helping the person take their life but are providing support.

If convicted in Georgia, the Final Exit members could face five years in prison.

Wesley J. Smith, an author and attorney who follows euthanasia issues, talked about the case.

"The Final Exit Network is dedicated to assisted suicide. More honestly than some in the euthanasia movement, its members openly acknowledge that the ‘ultimate civil liberty’ should not be limited to the terminally ill," he said. "It has long been suspected that some members of the FEN are not willing to wait until the law changes to assist in suicides."

"I know other cases apparently involving the FEN in which bereaved family members were horrified at what happened and yearned to see justice done," he said.

"I think it is important to understand that people who are this deeply involved in helping make other people dead are what I call ‘death fundamentalists,’ that is, they are not just selfless altruists, but act on a deep ideological belief and an odd form of twisted desire," Smith explained.

"So, let’s see where this case leads. If they did the deed or deeds, I hope the judge throws the book at them. But don’t count on serious punishment," he concludes.

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