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Obituary: Earl Wettstein, outstanding campaigner
The right-to-die movement has lost one of its most dynamic characters with the death of Earl Wettstein, of Arizona, from a heart attack at the age of 81.
After watching his Aunt Gladys beg for help in her dying process but getting none, Earl volunteered his talents and lobbied legislatively for ten years for the movement. “If I were boss of the world, doctors would be allowed to give lethal injections to terminally ill people in great pain and suffering who requested it,” he said.
After serving in the Army from l953 for two years, he gained a bachelor’ s degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota. He went into advertising and marketing in Tucson, always finding time to do pro bono work for various nonprofit organizations.
After the experience with his auntie, Earl joined the Hemlock Society, soon heading up the Arizona branch, its oldest and largest chapter, also known as Arizonans for Death With Dignity. Dissatisfied with its size, he went around the state campaigning, starting nine sub-chapters. Whenever there was a prospect of legislative action, Earl spent hours at the statehouse lobbying for support.
With his genial personality, sincerity and communication skills, people would listen to Earl even if they didn’t always agree. He was brilliant at coaxing top class speakers to the Hemlock meetings.
His friend and colleague John Abraham said: “In addition to being a ‘doer’, Earl had great integrity, a good sense of humor and an unimpeachable character. His integrity to the cause was thorough and unflagging. He will be missed.”
Earl joined the national board of the Hemlock Society USA in 2001 but, unhappy with the way the organization was drifting, did not seek re-election in 2003. The next year he was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Final Exit Network which sought to emulate Hemlock’s Caring Friends philosophy.
Elected the Network’s first president, he did so as long it was for a year only, and shouldered much of the slog of starting a new national organization. Then he retired to his studio to follow his love of painting and writing, punctured by the occasional outburst of enthusiastic support for his favorite cause. Few people give as much public service, or as effectively, as Earl Wettstein did. –— Derek Humphry

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