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ERGO/Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization

Contact: Ellen Barfield, (410) 243-5876


Lawrence D. Egbert, MD, MPH, the Baltimore anesthesiologist whose leadership in the right-to-die movement cost him his Maryland license to practice medicine, died of a heart attack June 9. He was 88.

Dr. Egbert, a retired professor of anesthesiology and public health, championed the right of individuals to choose to die rather than suffer intolerable circumstances or unremitting pain—and the right of physicians, family and friends to be present with those making that choice. He helped found and served as medical director of Final Exit Network, which provides education and compassionate presence to those facing end-of-life choices; he also acted as a FEN exit guide accompanying those who hastened their own deaths. He willingly paid a high price for his activism; newspapers dubbed him “the new Dr. Death,” the State of Maryland revoked his license to practice medicine there in 2014, and at various times he was under indictment in three states for supposedly assisting suicides (although he was never convicted of any charges).

Dr. Egbert’s activism also included the peace/anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, opposition to the death penalty and racism, advocacy for civil liberties, single-payer health care and simple living. He served on the boards of

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Maryland Civil Liberties Union, volunteered overseas with Doctors Without Borders, lived without a cell phone, air-conditioning, or a car, and traveled by bicycle around Baltimore until less than a year before his death. He was an active Unitarian Universalist for much of his life but attended a Quaker Meeting his last few years.

Dr Egbert’s wife Ellen Barfield said, “Larry was scheduled for an aortic heart valve procedure on June 21. I grieve the cruel twist of fate that got our hopes up, but I am so proud of the many ways he stood up for suffering and abused people and against war, racism, poverty, and coercion.”

Lawrence Deems Egbert Jr. was born in Champaign, IL, in 1927 and grew up in Washington, DC. After serving in the U.S. Army in Japan after World War II, he finished a bachelor’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland, served in the Navy as a doctor, and returned to Hopkins later to get a Masters in Public Health. He worked at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He also served for several years as visiting faculty at Pahlavi University Medical School in Shiraz, Iran, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

He became a nationally recognized anesthesiologist and published significant articles about patient care and racism in various medical journals. His (and two colleagues’) 1963 article on the “Therapeutic Benefit of the Anesthesiologist–Patient Relationship” in the Journal of the American Medical Association is still cited today and is deemed a “classic” by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

He is survived by Ellen, his wife and activist partner of more than 25 years, five children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. A Baltimore memorial service will be August 27. Donations in his memory can be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Final Exit Network, or Veterans For Peace.

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