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Final Exit investigated in woman's death

June 17, 2009 at 6:41 PM

COLUMBUS , Ohio, June 17 (UPI) -- Authorities in Ohio are investigating whether a right-to-die group contributed to the death of a 69-year-old woman who committed suicide.

Phyllis Jean Hixson, who had joined the Final Exit Network last year, apparently died after inhaling helium, and Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly is investigating her death as a homicide, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Relatives had last spoken with Hixson, who authorities said had respiratory problems, on Saturday. She was found Monday in her home, the newspaper said.

No group members were with Hixson when she died, an attorney for the right-to-die group told the Dispatch Tuesday.

The attorney, Robert Rivas, told the newspaper Hixson had spoken of her desire to die with a board member from Mason, Ohio.

After four Final Exit members were charged in February in the 2008 death of a Georgia man with cancer, the group stopped in-person support for suicides, Rivas said.

He told the newspaper Hixson may have had assistance from someone outside the group or committed suicide on her own using helium tanks and a hood, a method endorsed by Final Exit.

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