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from Derek Humphry

Columnist Nat Hentoff should ruminate on Shakespeare having King Henry V saying on the eve of Agincourt: “Old men forget,” for in his June 12 article “The devaluing of human life” Nat has got his dates all mixed up with regard to me.

Nat wrote: “I attended a conference on euthanasia at Clark College in Worcester, Mass. There, I met Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society, and already known internationally as a key proponent of the “death with dignity” movement.

“He told me that for some years in this country, he had considerable difficulty getting his views about assisted suicide and, as he sees it, compassionate euthanasia, into the American press.

“But then,” Mr. Humphry told me, “a wonderful thing happened. It opened all the doors for me.” “What was that wonderful thing?” I asked.

Roe vs.. Wade,” he answered.”

First, when Roe vs.. Wade was decided in 1973 I was living in England, where the case had little or no importance. I did not write any article on assisted suicide until the London Evening Standard commissioned my first, published April 24, 1978.

Second, I emigrated to America in late 1978, had no trouble publishing a book and articles about euthanasia, also starting the Hemlock Society in 1980.

What I probably said to Nat back in the 1980s or perhaps the 1990s (I forget when!) — because this is what I’ve always believed — was that Roe vs.. Wade opened up a necessary and significant debate in America on choice over personal decisions about one’s body.

The right to choose to die is a corollary of that.

Derek Humphry 18 June 2006

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