Feed on

The Final Exit Network affiliate in Illinois has changed its name back to ‘Hemlock of Illinois,’ which was its original founding name in l985. Based in Chicago, it remains affiliated to the Network.

The reason for the change given by its board members is that the group would have more members and be more visible with the name ‘Hemlock.’

A spokesperson said: “Our membership dropped because they did not like the change–thought it meaningless, and believed that, whereas Hemlock was known by a large number of people who were not necessarily members, but supported the goals and mission. Names like Compassion and Choices, and End of Life Choices were meaningless and had no resonance with the wider population.”

Last year the old Hemlock group in San Diego, California, reverted to the name chosen when it incorporated in l990 — ‘Hemlock Society of San Diego.’ Today it is not affiliated with any other organization.

At the same time, the group in Florida resumed the name ‘Hemlock Society of Florida, Inc.’ and it, too, proclaimed its independence from any other group. It was originally ‘Suncoast Hemlock’ founded in l987.

When the Hemlock Society USA (founded and so named in l980) was merged with End-of-Life Choices in 2003, both names were dropped and the national organization was then named ‘Compassion and Choices,’ with offices in Denver, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon. Many of the chapters called themselves ‘Compassion and Choices of So-and-So’ or ‘End-of-Life Choices of So-and-So’ but now some are having second thoughts and say their memberships are clamoring to have the old Hemlock name back again.

Compassion and Choices has threatened legal action again the California and Florida groups, saying that the name ‘Hemlock’ was trade-marked in l997 and no other right-to-die group can use it.

The groups are pushing back, saying that they were incorporated with the name long before the merger, and that the name was dropped because the national leadership frequently publicly stated its dislike of the name. It hampered their political connections, it was argued, by being connected to a poison and the intellectual dissident Socrates.

It is argued by those who want to keep the name that ‘hemlock’ is a famous name in history (Socrates etc), is a rampant poisonous waterweed, and a prolific American tree. Can you truly commandeer such a famous noun?

Maybe behind it all is money? Many veteran Hemlockers have bequeathed money to “The Hemlock Society” or ‘Hemlock’ and this may be how their wills still read. For years the right-to-die groups have urged their members to be very specific in naming exactly who they want to benefit from their estate.

—- Derek Humphry 12 July 2007
President, Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.