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Apparently the defense of the Final Exit Network defendants is going to be based in free speech. From Derek Humphry’s blog entry urging fellow travelers to pony up for the FEN defendants’ legal defense fund:

Inevitably, the cases against the Final Exit Seven will be a landmark in American law. Trial dates in Georgia and Arizona have not been set. In pretrial motions, at trial, and, if necessary, on appeal, our lawyers will argue that one cannot be charged or convicted of assisting a suicide or manslaughter for merely providing information and moral support. Final Exit Network protocols prohibit the volunteer Exit Guides from providing any actual physical assistance in a death, which, until now, was thought to preclude them from being charged or convicted in any crime.

Indeed, our attorneys will seek to establish that all of the activities of Final Network’s volunteers are protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

If that was all they did...perhaps. But the allegations are that these defendants did more, such as hold down the hands of the person dying.  Also, I believe that the FEN defendants in Phoenix, are charged with assisting the suicides of a mentally ill woman—and then cleaning up after the scene to cover up the fact that the death was a “self deliverance.” If either—or both—of these allegations are true, that takes these events a giant step beyond mere speech into the realm of action.

We’ll see how this plays out—innocent until proven guilty, and all that. But as we have seen where assisted suicide is legal, guidelines are made to be—and often are—broken. Why would free lancers be any more careful?

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