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Forty years ago today Jean Humphry used physician-assisted suicide to end her life at age 42. She was in an advanced stage of cancer metastasized from breast cancer two years earlier. She fought to live, had three chemotherapies, and good pain control from caring doctors.

A few months earlier, after the cancer had nearly killed her, she asked me to help her to die. In l974 the subject of assisted dying was little known. So I asked Jean what she wanted me to do.

“Go to a doctor,” she replied. “Tell the doctor my situation and ask for a lethal overdose of drugs. Store the drugs at home and when I’m ready to die, and if you agree there is no hope, hand them to me and I’ll die.”

After studying Jean’s condition and wishes, a doctor gave me the drugs with which on March 29, l975, she took her life. The doctor and myself were both breaking the law of England but Jean was not because suicide is not a crime. Neither the doctor nor I were prosecuted although assisted suicide is still (2015) a felony in England.

In l978 I published an account of this in a successful book “Jean’s Way” and the right-to-choose-to-die debate began to expand Continue Reading »

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The San Jose Mercury News reported 25 March 2015:

Right-to-die group offers aid, in secret, as California legislation is debated By Lisa M. Krieger

As legislators prepare to debate a “right to die” bill in the state Capitol, volunteers are already helping suffering people end their lives — surreptitiously, without authorization or official oversight — in bedrooms across California.

“The sneaking around … feels awful. It shouldn’t have to be that way,” said Myriam Coppens, a Santa Cruz resident who has served as a “guide” in the deaths of 16 people with advanced cancer, neurological diseases or incurable illnesses.

“This right is so fundamental to me,” said Coppens, a 74-year-old grandmother, retired nurse, family therapist and volunteer with the Final Exit Network, a right-to-die group that sees its guidance as a legally protected form of free speech. “How can you say no to someone who has a legitimate need — people struggling with crippling pain that cannot be taken care of with medication, or who face unbearable indignities?”

The issue is being fiercely debated across the nation, with critics decrying Final Exit’s efforts as immoral. Although California criminalizes “aiding, advising or encouraging a suicide,” the legal interpretation of those words is cloudy, and the law is rarely enforced. And now there is a mounting effort to change it.

California lawmakers Wednesday will hold their first hearing on Senate Bill 128, legislation that would Continue Reading »

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Go to this website to read the latest newsletter of the Final Exit Network, March 2015 edition:


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THE fight to legalise medical-assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill will take centre stage in the US this year, with bills filed in 20 states plus the District of Columbia.

“I feel it’s a watershed year,” says Peg Sandeen, head of the non-profit Death with Dignity National Center, based in Portland, Oregon, which campaigns for medical doctors to be in a position to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates to terminally ill individuals
who request it.

The practice is currently legal or has been decriminalised in five states.

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The writer and photographer Richard N. Cote died at home in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on February 10 at the age of 69.

Dick — as he was known to everybody — was in good general health. He fell down the stairs and suffered massive head trauma. Pronounced
brain dead with no hope of recovery, he was removed from the ventilator per his end-of-life wishes. He died shortly after. He donated his organs and was cremated. He leaves a widow, Nancy.

Already a writer of three biographies, two social histories and a contemporary novel, Dick decided five years ago to write the history of the world movement for the right to choose to die, concentrating on revealing the characters of the leading persons involved. His book: “In Search of Gentle Death: The Fight For Your Right to Die With Dignity” (Corinthian Books 2012) ran to 406 pages of fascinating reading. He described Dr Jack Kevorkian, whom he had met, as “a euthanasia lightning rod.”

Dick took a leading interesting in NuTech, a little-known group of world experts working to find methods of self-deliverance from an unbearable terminal illness by self-deliverance without the involvement of doctors. As a delegate from ERGO, he attended world conferences in Australia, Switzerland and Chicago, giving brilliant power-point demonstrations of NuTech progress.

Dick stood out in a crowd with his large frame and jovial countenance. He was always affable and understanding in ways that made him widely likeable. Chris Docker, of EXIT Scotland said: “In addition to his smiles and ever-positive attitude towards life, I hope that others also find such good memories of this kind and gentle man, that will maybe comfort but also inspire all those close to him at this time.”
Derek Humphry

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Oregon Public Health Division reports: Oregon Death with Dignity Act 2014

As of February 2, 2015, prescriptions for lethal medications were written for 155 people during 2014 under the provisions of the DWDA, compared to 121 during 2013

At the time of this report, 105 people had died from ingesting the medications prescribed during 2014 under DWDA. This corresponds to 31.0 DWDA deaths per 10,000 total deaths.

Since the law was passed in 1997, a total of 1,327 people have had DWDA prescriptions written and 859 patients have died from ingesting medications prescribed under the DWDA.

Of the 155 patients for whom DWDA prescriptions were written during 2014, 94 (60.6%) ingested the medication; all 94 patients died from ingesting the medication. No patients that ingested the medication regained consciousness.

Eleven patients with prescriptions written during the previous years (2012 and 2013) died after ingesting the medication during 2014.

Thirty-seven of the 155 patients who received DWDA prescriptions during 2014 did not take the medications and subsequently died of other causes.

For the full report, go to

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The Star in Canada reported 13 Feb.2015:
More than three quarters of Canadians support the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling last week legalizing physician-assisted suicide, according to a new Forum Research poll.

The survey of 1,018 adult Canadians conducted Monday and Tuesday, after Friday’s unanimous decision by the top court, found 78 per cent of respondents favour the ruling.

Of those in favour, 60 per cent approve “strongly’’ of the court’s decision.

Fifteen per cent of respondents said they disapproved of the ruling — 9 per cent “strongly’’ — while 7 per cent had no opinion.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they would consider assisted suicide themselves if they were in seriously ill condition or intolerable pain.

The poll results are a change from the survey Forum conducted in December 2011, with 1,160 respondents. At that time 67 per cent favoured legalizing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, 21 per cent were opposed, and 12 per cent didn’t know how they felt.

The latest poll shows support for assisted suicide is strongest in Quebec at 71 per cent — where right-to-die legislation is currently in force — and weakest in Alberta at 50 per cent.

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Interested in more news on the right-to-die issue? ERGO circulates on a regular basis an electronic newslist with news from around the world. It is moderated by Derek Humphry. To subscribe (free) Click here

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There is an interesting (and lengthy) book review by Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books, January 8, 2015, issue and it is well worth reading.

Here is a small extract:

“There is no doubt in my mind that hospice is the best option for helping dying patients during their last months, but I am not at all sure it is adequate for the death itself. I have long supported physician-assisted dying (and was a lead petitioner in getting a Death with Dignity Act put on the Massachusetts ballot). More than ever, I believe dying patients should have that choice.

“But after my husband’s death, I have come to favor euthanasia as well, for home hospice patients in the final, agonal stage of dying, who can no longer ingest medication orally. These patients are usually no longer mentally clear enough to give contemporaneous consent, but if they have earlier made it known that this is what they would wish, I believe that a duly appointed proxy should be able to have that wish carried out.”

Read the whole article at this site (copy & paste URL):


The review is of this book:
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande, Metropolitan, 282 pp., $26.00

The Hemlock Society USA (1980-2003) advocated — and proposed a model law — that voluntary euthanasia and medical assisted suicide both be approved, surrounded with rules and guidelines. For political expediency, later law campaigns removed the euthanasia clauses. Ms. Angell is one of the rare advocates who thinks similarly to Hemlock.

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For persons interested in the helium hood method of self-deliverance from a terminal or hopeless illness, this site (it’s graphic) on TUMBLR may be educational:


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