UPDATE: County Attorney Andrew Thomas Says Final Exit Network "Assisted Suicide" Case on Front Burner
County Attorney Andrew Thomas didn't answer many questions at his press conference a few hours ago about Phoenix's "assisted suicide" case, the story we broke in an August 2007 piece entitled "Death Wish."
What he did tell those assembled in the crowded conference room of his eighth-floor suite was that investigators from his office had assisted other agencies in the arrest -- on still-unspecified charges--of Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Larry Egbert, medical director of the Final Exit Network.
The elected official also noted that police agencies in Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and Montana (as well as the FBI) executed search warrants today at 14 sites allegedly linked to Final Exit.
The organization, which is based in Georgia, is the most radical of all the "assisted suicide"
groups. Its liberal position on what consitutes assisted suicide is what led two of its acolytes, a Scottsdale man and a Colorado woman, to assist Jana Van Voorhis in suffocating herself at her Phoenix condo in April 2007.
County Attorney Thomas noted during his press conference that "it may well have been the article in New Times or another news organization that led Phoenix police to investigate this."
Actually, no other news organization until today but ours has run anything about this fascinating and tragic case.
And it should be duly noted that Phoenix police homicide detectives Lois Weiss and Jennifer Mellinger investigated the case long and hard before and after the New Times piece ran.
We were fortunate enough to speak for our 2007 story with Wye Hale-Rowe, the Colorado "exit guide" who flew to Phoenix for the express purpose of helping Ms. Van Voorhis kill herself.
However, the evidence in the case revealed that the 58-year-old woman was not suffering from a terminal illness at the time of her death, but was chronically mentally ill.
"Jana was in the throes of what we call existential suffering," Hale-Rowe told us for the story. "Even though their physical pain may be managed, just being alive is a burden. They're not able to function much with reference to other people.
"Jana knew what it was like to have had a very functional, active life, and that was part of her angst, that she had lost it and there was no way she could get any of it back."
Thomas noted that prosecutors at his office are likely to decide within 60 days whether to bring charges against Hale-Rowe and her Scottsdale colleague, Frank Langsner.
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