Saturday, February 28, 2009

Larry and Nick won't fight extradition


Larry Egbert was released early this morning.  I am trying to determine if Nick is out yet.  It seems the commissioner wa getting persnickedy about Nick’s tax documents relating to his house.  Kagiso, Max,0,286614.story

2 charged in suicide network won't fight extradition

By Justin Fenton |

February 28, 2009

Two Baltimore men indicted in a Georgia assisted-suicide investigation waived their right to an extradition hearing yesterday morning, hoping to accelerate their release from custody as they await trial.

Attorneys for Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert, 81, and Nicholas Alec Sheridan, 60, who were arrested Wednesday in an eight-state probe of the Marietta, Ga.-based Final Exit Network, asked that the men be allowed to transport themselves to Georgia, where authorities say they plan to allow the men to be released on $60,000 bond.

District Court Judge Jeannie J. Hong said said she would consult with Georgia officials in an attempt to expedite the process.

"They have no reluctance to go to Georgia, where they've never been and never fled from, to face these charges," attorney Michael Kaminkow told reporters afterward.

Egbert, an anesthesiologist, is an unpaid visiting assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine but does not treat patients at the hospital. Sheridan, former owner of a catering company, is a part-time aide in the General Assembly to Del. Maggie McIntosh.

Authorities with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation say the pair played an integral role in connecting 58-year-old John Celmer of Cumming, Ga., to the network, which aided in his death in July.

At the hearing, Kaminkow said Egbert has high blood pressure and has not had access to proper medication. His blood pressure approached stroke levels last night, Kaminkow said. Sheridan, meanwhile, pleaded with Hong to release him so he could make arrangements for his 17-year-old daughter.

"Just one day - I could arrange things so she can carry on with her life," he said.

A group of about a dozen supporters attended the hearing to show their support. Max Obuszewski, a peace activist who held a sign that read, "I support Larry & Nick - Human Rights Activists," said the two men have been active in anti-war and human rights efforts, though he said he was unaware of their involvement in the Final Exit Network that is alleged to have helped facilitate suicides.

"It is, to me, a trumped-up case," Obuszewski said.

Asked about his role with Final Exit, Egbert's wife, Ellen Barfield, repeatedly bristled at the term "assisted suicide," saying her husband helped educate terminally sick people on how to "self-deliver." She would not answer several questions about whether Egbert had ever been present during someone's death.

Kaminkow said Egbert's support of right-to-die efforts is no secret and that he is a member of a 3,000-member nationwide advocacy group. The attorney said he didn't see the difference between the group's efforts and hospices.

"A hospice is a slow assisted suicide, where they are deprived of assistance and given drugs instead of medication," Kaminkow said. "It isn't much different."

Assisted suicide ring members prep for court fight

By GREG BLUESTEIN Associated Press Writer

Posted: 02/27/2009 03:28:24 AM EST


ATLANTA—Members of an assisted suicide ring say they've done nothing wrong and seem eager for a court battle over criminal charges they helped a Georgia man kill himself, while their supporters are using the case as a rallying cry for more debate about end-of-life issues.

Four members of the Final Exit Network were arrested Wednesday on charges they violated Georgia's assisted suicide laws by helping 58-year-old John Celmer use helium and an exit bag—a plastic hood with tubing attached—to suffocate himself.


Network president Thomas E. Goodwin and member Claire Blehr, both arrested in metro Atlanta, were released from jail late Thursday. Goodwin's attorney, Cynthia Counts, said she was confident her client "will be vindicated."

In Baltimore on Friday, Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert and Nicholas Alex Sheridan smiled and waved to supporters before asking a judge to release them on bond so they could travel to Georgia to face charges. The judge later agreed to release and their attorney said they were expected to travel to Georgia over the weekend.


"These are not people who are running from justice," said Michael Kaminkow, an attorney for Egbert, the group's medical director, and Sheridan. "These are people who want justice."


Celmer's mother says he suffered for years from mouth and throat cancer, but Georgia authorities say he was cancer-free and simply embarrassed about how jaw surgeries had affected his appearance when the network helped him kill himself.


Network members bristle at the term assisted suicide, saying they don't actively aid suicides but rather support and guide those, like Celmer, who decide to end their lives on their own.


"These people are suffering. And the suffering that they're experiencing is their own personal experience," said Jerry Dincin, a Chicago clinical psychologist who was named the group's president after Goodwin's arrest.

Dincin, who wasn't arrested, said he never met Celmer. But he said Friday people who approach the group for help are asked repeatedly in the days leading up to the suicide—often more than 10 times—if they are sure they want to go through with the process.


"Who are we to judge? That's his opinion. He was suffering to the point where he didn't want to live anymore. He had every opportunity to say no, and he didn't."


The four also were charged with tampering with evidence and violating anti-racketeering laws.


Georgia authorities began investigating the group shortly after Celmer killed himself last June. Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead says the organization may have been involved in as many as 200 other deaths around the country since it began in 2004.


State authorities have frozen the Georgia-based network's bank accounts, and Dincin said it can't pay its bills. "We can't even buy a stamp," he said, though he wouldn't say how much was in the accounts.


Voters in Oregon and Washington have legalized doctor-assisted suicide, and a district judge in Montana ruled in December that such suicides are legal there, though the state Supreme Court could overturn that decision.

Most other states call for prison time for those found guilty of assisting suicide. People convicted of assisting in suicide in Georgia can be sentenced to up to five years.


The GBI is now leading a wide-ranging investigation into the ring, which has led to raids in nine states. Authorities say they have searched 14 sites in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Montana.


Some legal experts and advocates said they hope details about the network will help stoke a deeper discussion over assisted suicide.


Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the national advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said the case is a reminder that lawmakers must consider changes to allow those suffering with terminal illnesses to "die gracefully."


"We shouldn't make people feel ashamed for wanting a graceful exit at the end of their valiant fight," she said.


Georgia prosecutors will seek to prove the four network members violated the state's 1994 assisted suicide law, which defines assisted suicide as anyone publicly advertising or offering to "intentionally and actively assist another person" in ending their life.


Dincin called the prosecution "a travesty of American justice."


"I'm so insulted. The GBI should be flushed down the toilet," he said. "They have judged us and ruined us before we have gone to court."


Dincin said the group's members didn't actively assist the suicides but were there to walk members through a procedure outlined in the best-selling manual "The Final Exit" and hold their hands until their dying breaths.

"If this case goes to court, we'll be dealing with the notion of what is 'assistance,'" he said. "If we point somebody to a book, maybe that's considered assistance in the courts. But we don't think so."


Associated Press Writer Alex Dominguez in Baltimore contributed to this report.



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