The state’s assisted suicide law will apparently live intact for at least another week.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued no decisions today at its regularly scheduled time. The Associated Press had earlier reported that a test of the state’s law was expected today.
Update 11:23 a.m. The Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion. Unlike published opinion, however, “unpublished opinion” do not set precedent and can be cited in future cases only in limited circumstances.
It said it is not persuaded that “speech advising or encouraging another in suicide has little social value and is comparable to the historically unprotected category of speech integral to criminal conduct because suicide is historically recognized as a ‘grievous public wrong akin to conduct statutorily identified as a crime.’”
“The state asserts only that speech intentionally advising or encouraging another in suicide is similar to speech integral to criminal conduct and therefore similarly unprotected. We disagree,” today’s opinion said.
It also instructed legislators on how to get around today’s ruling. “To protect vulnerable people from being coerced or unduly influenced to commit suicide, the state could draft a statute that prohibits only that speech,” Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman wrote.
Doreen Dunn suffered from a chronic condition and was said to be deeply depressed when she died in May 2007. Initially, her death was ruled via natural causes but Georgia authorities found documents that Dunn had consulted with the Final Exit Network shortly before her death. Dakota County prosecutor James Backstrom reopened the case.
Dakota County Judge Karen Asphaug threw out charges against the former head of a right-to-die group the Final Exit Network. But two other charges against other members for assisting in suicide remained.
In Minnesota, it’s a felony in Minnesota to assist, advise or encourage suicide. Asphaug ruled that the “advising” part infringes on free speech.
The Final Exit Network was profiled last year in a PBS Frontline documentary. It said the group is controversial within the right-to-die movement, because unlike other groups, it believes that the people they help don’t have to be terminally ill.