An American right-to-die activist who narrowly escaped extradition to Ireland to face charges for assisting in a Dublin woman's suicide has bought a property for a 'right-to-die' hospice in the US and wants to facilitate Irish people who wish to end their lives.
Rev George Exoo (67) spent four months in prison in West Virginia in 2007 in relation to a garda extradition warrant.
A West Virginia court later ruled that Exoo could not be extradited to Ireland because assisting suicide is not a crime under federal or West Virginia law and is not an offence in 25 of the 50US states.
Exoo travelled to Dublin eight years ago to help Rosemary Toole-Gilhooley (49) take her own life in a Dublin apartment. She died after taking pills and inhaling helium.
Exoo has insisted that Toole-Gilhooley had made detailed preparations for her death and that his role was simply to pray and hold her hand while she took her life. He claims that she was suffering from Cushing's syndrome and not depression alone.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune Exoo said he has just bought a property in Gastonia, North Carolina. Following renovations, it will open as America's first right-to-die hospice.
At the facility, people with terminal and debilitating illnesses will end their own lives with assistance from Exoo and his colleagues. Assisting suicide is not a crime under North Carolina law.
"We have just bought the property for the hospice. There are two houses and some land. It definitely will not be a 'suicide tourism' kind of place. It will be somewhere people can die with support and dignity," he said.
"In my view, assisted suicide is only the answer if someone has a terminal medical prognosis or a debilitating illness that makes their life unbearable.
"The property we have bought is in Gastonia, it is very close to Charlotte airport North Carolina, so it is suitable for people flying in to visit us."
Asked if he would facilitate an Irish person if they sought to end their life at his hospice, he said: "If an Irish person asked me, I would certainly think about it. It is not illegal in North Carolina so I don't see what the problem could be. But I don't know what conflict that could create with your government. I have a special place in my heart for the Irish people."
Last year, an Irish man contacted Exoo through his church, the Compassionate Chaplaincy, asking for assistance in committing suicide.
However, Exoo said he declined to assist the man to end his life as he did not think suicide was the answer in this case. He instead referred the man to a UK clinic to seek medical treatment.
"In that case, I thought the man could have a quality of life through medical intervention. Suicide is not always the answer. In many cases, I advise people that they should not try to end their life and remind them what they have to live for."