Tag Archives: suicide

Suicide at TN Tower raises security questions

Security issues were raised by a recent suicide at Tennessee Tower, located across the street from the state Capitol, reports WSMV TV.

Police identified the man as Anton Kanevsky, 26, who was visiting Nashville from New York. A state worker saw his body fall past his office window one morning.

Police said Kanevsky left his keys, phone and sandals on the roof before leaping to his death on the plaza 31 stories below.

His family may never know why, but many people want to know how a traveler from out of state got onto the roof of the building.

Kanevsky’s social media profiles show he is from East Meadow, NY, and fluent in Russian. He kept an online travel journal and chronicled his brief few days in Nashville on Facebook. He was looking for work.

Kanevsky stayed at a hostel in downtown Nashville. He had no obvious connections to anyone at the Tennessee Tower.

Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.

Employees must scan their ID to get into Tennessee Tower. Visitors must sign in and show a photo ID. It’s not clear if Kanevsky got to the roof through an elevator inside the building or if he found another way.

The tower is currently having work done on its top floors and roof. There is an outside elevator that’s supposed to be for construction workers, so it’s possible Kanevsky rode that.

Wellspring Builders, the general contractor, referred Channel 4’s questions to the state. The General Services administration would only say it’s under investigation.

Supremes refuse expedited hearing in Hooker ‘death with dignity’ lawsuit

The Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected a request from John Jay Hooker for an quick hearing on his appeal of a lower court decision rejecting an assisted suicide lawsuit, reports The Tennessean.

The justices said Hooker cannot take his case directly to the state’s highest court — essentially skipping an intermediate court. They said the former gubernatorial candidate and advocate must go through the regular appeals process, starting with the Court of Appeals. Hooker, who has terminal cancer, said he plans to do just that.

“I am in a rush to get this question decided so that those of us who face death can decide if we want to die with a smile on our face instead of tears in our eyes,” he said. Hooker pushed legislation earlier this year to change a Tennessee law that makes it a crime for doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. The legislation was not passed, and Hooker filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court asking a judge to allow his doctors to prescribe the medication.

In September, Chancellor Carol McCoy dismissed the case, saying Hooker did not have standing to pursue legal action.

Hooker said Friday he believed McCoy should not have heard the case. Hooker said that is because McCoy’s husband, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Roger Page, applied to fill a vacant seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court after the retirement of Justice Gary Wade. Hooker said because Gov. Bill Haslam was named as a defendant in his Chancery Court case, and Haslam will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, McCoy had an interest in how she decided the case and should have removed herself from it.

McCoy heard arguments in July, before court administrators publicly announced Wade’s retirement. She issued her ruling five days after her husband applied for the vacancy.

Calls to McCoy’s office were directed to Trial Court Administrator Tim Townsend, who said he could not comment.

Hooker seeks expedited ruling in assisted suicide lawsuit

Political activist and dying cancer patient John Jay Hooker is asking the state Supreme Court for an expedited hearing on an appeal of a judge’s refusal to allow his doctors to prescribe life-ending medication without facing criminal consequences.

Further from The Tennessean:
“This case involves the imminent death of a party (Hooker),” the appeal, filed Tuesday by Nashville attorneys Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chappell, reads. “A terminally ill Tennessee citizen’s interest in his or her own manner of death is of utmost personal and public importance.

“The confusion resulting from the trial court’s opinion and the need for guidance on constitutional issues also calls for expedited review of this case.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court is usually the last appeals court to hear cases, but has occasionally agreed to hear them out of order. Earlier this year it intervened and ruled on several issues related to the state’s lethal injection execution protocol while the protocol was being contested in a Davidson County court.

The justices of the state’s highest court will decide whether to hear Hooker’s case.

Hooker is asking them to reverse a September decision from Nashville Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy upholding a state law that makes it illegal to help anyone commit suicide. McCoy said Hooker’s doctors would be committing criminal acts if they wrote prescriptions for life-ending medications.

John Jay Hooker goes to court asking assisted suicide

Attorneys for John Jay Hooker and three doctors appeared in court Friday, asking a judge to allow the physicians to help the 84-year-old lawyer and frequent political candidate end his life.

Hooker, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, joined the doctors in filing a Chancery Court lawsuit in May. Earlier, Hooker urged the Legislature to change current state law that prohibits doctors from prescribing lethal drugs to assist a suicide. The Legislature did not.

From The Tennessean report:

Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy is considering two issues argued during a two-hour hearing in the case Friday morning.

Hooker’s attorneys, Hal Hardin and Cynthia Chapell, want an injunction to allow Hooker’s doctors to prescribe him life-ending medication without criminal repercussions. The state, defending the law, says McCoy should dismiss the case and leave it up to the legislature.

“I’m hopeful she’s going to decide on our side,” said Hooker, who appeared to become emotional when speaking to reporters after the hearing. “This is just so morally right. I’ve got hope in my heart.”

Steven Hart, special counsel in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, argued assisted suicide is not a constitutionally protected right. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide is not protected by the Constitution.

“This is a matter for the General Assembly to consider and debate and not for the court to decide,” Hart said.

He said 45 states prohibit assisted suicide, which is sometimes called aid in dying or death with dignity. To allow it, he said, would start a “slippery slope toward perhaps even euthanasia.”

…McCoy did not set a time frame for her ruling. Before leaving the courtroom, she acknowledged Hooker’s work.

“Mr. Hooker, my sincere condolences on your health,” she said. “You have been a very well known and active citizen exercising all of your rights. I wish you well.”

Legislators hear passionate pleas for and against assisted suicide

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Longtime civil rights activist John Jay Hooker pleaded before a state Senate committee on Tuesday for a bill to allow physician-assisted suicide.

The 84-year-old former Democratic nominee for governor has terminal cancer. He showed up at the meeting of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee in a wheelchair and at times struggled to catch his breath. But he spoke passionately about the issue, calling it “the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

Hooker said he first came to the Capitol 57 years ago as a young lawyer to prosecute a judge.

“I was here then on behalf of justice. I’m here now on behalf of mercy,” he said.

Political luminaries including former Gov. Winfield Dunn and former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh attended the committee hearing, where Hooker presented physician-assisted suicide as a constitutional right.

“If we have the power to seek happiness, guaranteed by our own constitution, then we have the power to take our own lives when they become no longer tolerable,” he said.
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John Jay Hooker’s last lawsuit (?) seeks right to die with doctor assistance

John Jay Hooker, terminally ill after decades of political and legal crusades, has filed a lawsuit contending that he has a right to assisted suicide under the Tennessee constitution, reports The Tennessean.

Hooker, 84, urged legislators earlier this year to change state law to permit assisted suicide. The bill was assigned to “summer study,” with Hooker urging that the study begin in May because he is not sure he will still be alive later in the year. No “summer study” hearing has yet been scheduled.

In the lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, Hooker is challenging a state law that makes it a felony for a doctor or another person to assist in someone’s death.

Hooker recites part of the first article of the state constitution from memory, focusing on one line: “Power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness.”

“If I’m in a state to die, it’s just a question of what day and what month, and my happiness is involved, do I want to sit there in bed and be the prisoner of that pain?” Hooker said. “Does the government have the right to tell me I can’t check out of this hotel? I say the government can’t tell the people they can’t do something that is in pursuit of their own happiness, and that doesn’t involve anyone else.”

He also argues there is no difference between a doctor taking away machines that support life and administering medications that end it.

Three doctors joined with Hooker to bring the case: Hooker’s physician, Dr. Jeffrey Sosman of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Dr. W. Barton Campbell, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Dr. Robert Ballard, who Hooker said is in private practice in Memphis.

The lawsuit names Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk.

…He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and says his fight for euthanasia is not just for himself. He pledged to continue to advocate for the issue in the legislature, where a bill stalled this year that would have allowed doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to a “mentally competent adult.”

UPDATE/NOTE: Hooker says his cancer has spread throughout his body and he doesn’t have much time left, according to WTVF. He’s asked for an expedited hearing on this lawsuit.

State gets $5M in federal suicide prevention grants

News release from state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has been awarded two federal grants totaling nearly $5 million dollars, to reduce the rate of suicides in the state. The funds, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will be focused on preventing suicides statewide.

“The rate of suicides in Tennessee has been steadily increasing since the late 1980s,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS). “Suicide is a serious public health problem and a subject people are still very hesitant to talk about. These grant awards will allow us to address this threat and save lives.”

TENNESSEE SUICIDES BY THE NUMBERS

Adults 25 to 34 year olds: Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death

Youth 10 to 24 years old: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death

Adults 35 to 64 years old: Represent 70% of all suicides in 2010

“For every death, there are 8 to 10 suicide attempts,” said Melissa Sparks, Director of Crisis Services at TDMHSAS. “Our goal is zero suicides in Tennessee with a focus on reducing suicide attempts.”

Educating mental health providers statewide is key to preventing suicides in Tennessee. By training more professionals to identify people who may be in crisis and potentially suicidal, there is more opportunity to intervene and save lives.

“Many people contemplating suicide are dealing with a lot of untreated depression,” said Sparks. “We look to collaborate with medical professionals across the state, to connect those in crisis with behavioral health services and get them the help they need.”

Tennessee, New York, New Mexico and Oklahoma are the only four states to receive a federal grant for adult suicide prevention.

For help in Tennessee, call the 24/7 REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

Candidate Who Killed Himself Faced Scrutiny Over Jobless Benefits

J.T. Woods, the Roane County property assessor candidate who killed himself in the yard of his former boss, shouldn’t have received $16,913 in jobless benefits, an unemployment appeals hearing officer has ruled.
From the News Sentinel report:
A hearing on Assessor Teresa Kirkham’s appeal of Woods’ jobless benefits occurred May 30. On May 31, Woods shot himself in the head with a .357-caliber handgun outside Assessor Teresa Kirkham’s Kingston condo.
A ruling dated June 6 by state hearing officer Barbara Ligon stated Woods had improperly drawn benefits. It was made public this week.
The ruling states Woods gave “an incorrect reason for his separation” from his job as a field appraiser, and the jobless benefits he received must be repaid.
Woods was fired from his job in 2010 after saying he was sick when he was actually golfing in Florida with the doctor who signed his medical excuse, according to the ruling.
After he was fired, Woods filed a jobless claim saying he had been “separated due to a lack of work.”

Roane County Candidate Kills Himself in Opponent’s Yard

A candidate for Roane County property assessor fatally shot himself this morning in the yard of the current assessor, his former employer, reports the News Sentinel.
James T. Woods, 56, shot himself in the head, according to authorities.
Gary Nelson, assistant police chief for the Kingston Police Department, confirmed the shooting this afternoon.
Woods shot himself outside Teresa Kirkham’s condo at 1010 Brentwood Way in Kingston, according to fire officials.
Bowden R. Ladd, an investigator with the district attorney general’s office, confirmed that Woods died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson said he was told Kirkham had pulled into her driveway, and she had called an employee to come to her residence.
The employee saw Woods “sitting on a wall and realized he had a gun in his lap,” Johnson said. “He was sitting there telling her what he was going to do,” the district attorney said.
“As she turned away, she said he shot himself once in the head.”
Woods was among several people running against Kirkham, the longtime assessor, for the post.
Johnson said a .357-caliber revolver that was fully loaded with one spent shell in the chamber was found at the scene
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Lawmaker Draws Fire for Bullying/Suicide Comments

The Tennessee Democratic Party is criticizing Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, for his comments during House floor debate on a bill that amends the state “cyberbullying” law.
During the debate, Rep. Jeremy Faison spoke out against the bill, displaying a “boys will be boys” mentality towards bullying, and ignoring the public outcry from parents who have lost children to suicide after years of vicious and intolerable harassment. He then went one step further and said that “I will submit to you today, that they didn’t commit suicide because of somebody bullying them, they committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self esteem came from.”
Faison is apparently blaming the parents of suicide victims for their inability to “instill the proper principles” in their children. What a disgrace. Now, of course a tall and burly Faison doesn’t see any problems with bullying, as he admitted, he was perfectly capable of defending himself or dishing out punishment as he saw fit. But many kids don’t have that ability. That is why laws like these need to be passed.
It is unfortunate that some in the Republican Party have become the protectors of bullies.

See also Steve Hale, who has Faison’s apology:
“After reviewing my comments on the House Floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words. My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy.”