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Report of the NuTech Workshop at the World Conference of Right to Die
Societies in Melbourne

(NOTE: NuTech is short for ‘New Technologies for Self-Deliverance, founded 1999 as an international research group for new ways of ending one’s life without a doctor when terminally ill. NuTech invented the widely-used helium hood method.)

By Faye Girsh

The NuTech meeting 7 Oct 10 was very successful.

We had three and a half hours this morning to have a meeting on NuTech which was well attended and provoked a lot of interest.

Richard Cote’s excellent, informative slide show on the history of NuTech oriented the audience of about 45 people from several countries.

The three speakers who followed together had almost 50 years combined experience in working with dying patients. George Eighmey, recently retired director of Compassion and Choices Oregon talked about 12 years of operating within a law that offered great flexibility but in a restrictive setting.

He talked about being able to pick up medication for his patients and delivering it to them while having to be careful to not provide help in taking the medication. He was well aware of the limitations of the Oregon provisions and often had to look for ways to help those patients who did not meet the criteria. The audience was shocked to hear the high prices of Seconal and Nembutal in Oregon though in some cases costs were covered by insurance.

Neal Nicol followed talking about his long career as Jack Kevorkian’s colleague (he is portrayed by John Goodman in the HBO movie, You Don’t Know Jack, based on the book he co-wrote.) Neal stressed the importance of thinking out of the box about new technologies. He mentioned routes of adminstration that included transdermal, nasal sprays, suppositories, smoking and other creative ways for patients to absorb medications which might not be useful if oral administration were required.

He stressed the importance of having Plan B and Plan C ready in case helium, the usual Plan A, became unavailable though he showed some mechanisms that could make the use of helium more reliable. NuTech, he said, was the most likely place to find solutions in the future.

Dr. Richard MacDonald, the only doctor on the panel, talked about non-medical methods he used over a 12 year period as the Medical Director for Hemlock in the Caring Friends program and, after that, with his current work with the Final Exit Network.

Though starting out with medications as the primary means of self-deliverance in 1998, they became increasingly unavailable the use of helium has become the primary means people can use to achieve a peaceful death thanks to NuTech development of this method.

He responded to skepticism in the audience about the use of the plastic bag explaining that it was well accepted by patients and their loved ones and resulted in a quick, certain and gentle death.

The final presenter, Russel Ogden, has been the NuTech researcher collecting and publishing data on various methods. This has entailed a ethical and legal risks for him since he has been in the room observing while people have taken their own lives. He demonstrated how quickly helium reduces the oxygen level and the results physiologically of a helium death with a plastic bag versus a mask.

Immediately after the NuTech session, Dick MacDonald, Russel, Ted Goodwin for Larry Egbert, and I gave ten minute papers in the next room again reiterating the non-medical model and the necessity of providing help to people whether provided by the law or not.

Dick stressed Alzheimer’s as a condition which warranted attention while Russel made a strong case for being upfront with the authorities about end of life activities. All of these sessions in Melbourne have been excellent. Their major concern is getting legal change but hearing about extra-legal activities gave many in the audience ideas about other possibilities.

Faye Girsh NuTech meeting report following the World Federation of Right to Die Societies meeting in Melborne, Australia on October 7, 2010


5 Responses to “World conference hears latest developments in self-deliverance”

  1. kathryngwynjohnson says:

    Are there any documented instances of people trying to commit suicide using the exit bag and helium method, botching the job, and ending up remaining alive, but with brain damage?

  2. ergo says:

    None that I know of, but it could happen if the method is not carefully carried out.

  3. horiadascal says:

    Mr Humphry,
    You could say, how many successful cases of suicide with helium and exit bag are known, since it was implemented this method? (Approximately, as a statistic, so I can better appreciate the efficiency of this method).
    With gratitude, Horia Dascal

  4. ergo says:

    The helium hood method of self-deliverance from a terminal illness has been in use widely since myself and colleagues in NuTech invented it in 2000 and it appeared in my book ‘Final Exit’ in its 3rd edition.
    Nobody records or counts the cases because it is (1) a very private act; and (2) assisted suicide is a crime everywhere (except by doctors only in some places in the world) so statistics would be unwise. The FBI monitors all communications on this subject.
    From what I hear and observe, there must by now be hundreds of cases of chosen death by this means.
    ————-Derek Humphry

  5. Elaine of Kalilily says:

    I posted a related and supportive blogpost at http://www.kalilily.net/weblog/2010/11/26/140234.html, where I also chronicled my mother’s last five days.

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