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This is an extract from a very interesting article in the March issue of ‘Atlanta’ magazine which is well worth reading.
If the right-to-die movement has a bible, it would be a 220-page book first published in 1991 and now in its third edition. Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying
was written by Derek Humphry, a British-born journalist who founded the Hemlock Society in 1980. Humphry’s book contains twenty-seven chapters that are by turns funny (“How Do You Get the Magic Pills”), cryptic (“The Cyanide Enigma”), deadly serious (“Self-Starvation”), and
unnervingly matter-of-fact (“Self-Deliverance Using a Plastic Bag”).

Final Exit was the twenty-ninth-most-banned book of the 1990s in America.

Humphry, who now lives in Oregon, currently advises FEN, and his book is required reading for Final Exit Network members. In the twenty-third chapter, “A Speedier Way: Inert Gases,” Humphry explains that helium, argon, neon, and nitrogen can be used quickly and painlessly to cause one’s death. The balloon gas, he concludes, is best.

Inhaling helium expels oxygen from the body, which initiates brain
death—without pain, it is said—in minutes. Bodily death occurs some ten
minutes later. While it’s not the foolproof “magic death pill” wished
for in the right-to-die community, helium is close to perfect. It isn’t
explosive or flammable. It’s odorless, easy to breathe, and tough to
trace. (In December of 2007, The American Journal of Forensic Medicine
and Pathology wrote: “It leaves only seldom externally visible marks . .
. on the body. If the . . . auxiliary means are removed by another
person, the forensic death investigation of cause and manner of death
may be very difficult.”) Best of all, it’s available in lightweight
compressed-gas cylinders included in party balloon kits that go for
about $25 at Party City. Buy two, one for backup, advises Humphry. Pay
cash so you won’t leave a trail.
Then there’s the “exit bag.” It’s clear plastic, approximately twenty-
two by thirty-six inches, with a four-foot piece of thin plastic tubing
that connects to the helium tank. An elastic headband secures it. “Ugh!
The plastic bag! Agreed. Not very aesthetic,” writes Humphry, “but not
so bad with a little prior practice to become accustomed to it.” One
size fits all, ordered by mail from a California company.

While Humphry’s tone is at times glib, the reader learns that the seventy-nine-year-old has helped three family members die: his wife, brother, and father-in-law, who suffered from cancer, brain damage, and heart failure, respectively. “The right to choose to die in a manner and at a time of one’s own choosing,” he says, “is the ultimate personal and civil liberty. In fifty years, assisted suicide will be a forgotten subject, confined to the books on social history.”

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