Karen Stern’s Final Exit October 29, 2007, Kingman, Arizona By Richard N. Côté / dickcote at earthlink.net Karen Stern, a vivacious 53-year-old, guitar-playing singer and writer of loopy, infectiously funny songs, died on the morning of October 29, 2007, in a motel in Kingman, Arizona. She had informed the front desk clerk about 7:00 a.m. that she would be checking out that day. When she had not done so by 11:00 a.m., a motel staff member went to her room. Karen was found in her bed, neatly dressed, with an empty tank of helium gas nearby. She had committed suicide in a gentle, painless way by breathing pure helium, which rendered her unconscious within a minute or two and dead within five or ten minutes. The hotel immediately called 911, but the paramedics could do nothing to help her. A native of the Northeast, she had chosen Kingman, Arizona, as one of her temporary sanctuaries in the last several years. Its dry climate offered some relief from the severe effects of the two baffling and exhausting afflictions from which she had suffered for many years: Morgellons Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). According to the CFIDS Association (www.cfids.org), “Chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and by other names, is a complex and debilitating chronic illness that affects the brain and multiple body systems.” Morgellons Syndrome is equally baffling to science. The Morgellons Research Foundation (www.morgellons.org) found that although some patients did find physicians willing to help them, “many patients reported feeling abandoned by physicians unwilling to investigate their illness. These patients tried valiantly to find a modicum of relief in the face of an otherwise ineffective medical system.” Karen, who spent years intensively researching her ailments, was one of those patients. Numerous doctors could not alleviate the increasingly tortured existence she had lived for the past several years. As her conditions worsened, and life became progressively more unbearable, Karen consulted numerous experts on the subject of suicide, and had received extensive advice on how to find the strength to live, as well as how to put an end to her pain peacefully, should she choose to do so. She spent an enormous amount of time conducting research on how to achieve a rapid, painless death.
Ultimately, she chose the helium method because it was recommended in the world’s best-selling suicide how-to book, Final Exit, by Derek Humphry, and because the supplies could all be obtained locally, legally, and without having to involve anyone else.