Originally, The Hemlock Society was organized in 1980, but over time
the organization changed its name, merged with another RTD organization,
and then in 2003 split into two separate organizations that essentially share
the same belief in death with dignity, but each of these two organizations has
a different focus. These two groups are Final Exit Network and Compassion
Compassion and Choices focuses on legislative change.
Final Exit Network, however, has taken a very different approach,
recognizing the need NOW for compassionate support and death with dignity education in all states. Although we also share the belief that laws throughout the U.S. should change, and we completely support legislation throughout the country and the world, we address the current needs of those who are suffering now, in a very real and personal way.
The Network offers Exit Guide services and education in ALL states, not only for our members who live in states where current laws offer Physician Aid in Dying (PAD), but in all states, including states that do not have death with dignity or PAD laws.
Our focus is to offer education and a compassionate presence in cases that meet our Medical Evaluation Committee (MEC) criteria.
History of Final Exit Network
Due to recent legal actions brought against our Exit Guides in Georgia, Arizona, and Minnesota, our MEC criteria can only support those cases that fall within our guidelines. We do, however, offer information and education to all of our members.
We also support world-wide education and support death with dignity laws and the right of each individual to make their own end-of-life choices. In September of 2014, Final Exit Network hosted the 2014 biennial conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies in Chicago, in which 250 attendees from 23 countries came together to talk about opportunities for self determination in their respective countries and to share and evaluate their respective experiences.
Many of the founders of the original Hemlock Society were the founders of Final Exit
Network and are currently members. Of those original Hemlock founders, Derek Humphry
and Faye Girsh continue to play a major role in the work of Final Exit Network and both
currently serve on our Advisory Board.
Derek Humphry, Hemlock Society Founder & Final Exit Network Advisor
Derek Humphry is author of the book Final Exit, which was number one in the New York Times bestseller list. After 22 years in print it continues to be revised and reprinted. It is available in paperback or ebook on the ERGO bookstore at www.finalexit.org/ergo-store, on Amazon worldwide and good bookstores in North America. Derek founded the Hemlock Society USA in l980 and is a past president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies www.worldrtd.net.
Faye Girsh, Hemlock Society & Final Exit Network Founder
Faye Girsh an original founder of Hemlock continued until recently as president of The Hemlock Society of San Diego, which is a very active supporter of Final Exit Network. Faye is also a past president of WFRTDS. The Caring Friends program of the original Hemlock Society was Faye's brainchild. She gives credit to Dr. Richard MacDonald, the program's first medical director who worked tirelessly to help Caring Friends become a viable program. Other early Hemlock board members who founded Final Exit Network are Dr. Richard MacDonald, Lois Schaffer, Frank Kavanaugh, Jim Chastain, and Dalton Baker.
After retiring from the Medical Evaluation Committee, Dick MacDonald continues to serve on the FEN Advisory Board and is an active speaker with our Speakers Bureau.
Frank Kavanaugh died in 2016, but had been a great asset as Final Exit Network's public relations expert and media specialist. He was very instrumental in our successful media campaign in Chicago at the World Federation Conference. Jim Chastain also died recently after he stepped down from many years as the active leader of Final Exit Network in Florida. Dalton Baker died in January 2015, after many, many years as an active leader in Final Exit Network.
What sets us apart from other right-to-die organizations?
What Sets Final Exit Network Apart
from Other Right-to-Die Groups?
- Final Exit Network is the only organization in the United States that will help individuals who are not “terminally ill”- 6 months or less to live-to hasten their deaths. No other organization in the US makes this commitment. Other organizations claim to “serve” non-terminal individuals, but they will not counsel or provide guidance and support unless the patient is terminal.
- Final Exit Network will serve many whom other organizations may turn away. The Network will serve members suffering from …. cancer… neurological diseases such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s …. motor neuron diseases such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, respiratory illnesses such as emphysema, degenerative afflictions such as congestive heart failure, stroke, AIDS … and many, many others. In most of these cases, the Network is the only organization that will truly serve these individuals.
- The Network is one of the few organizations that support research into other peaceful means for self-deliverance. We recently made a grant to a researcher who is about to conduct final tests on a new method. If the tests are successful, the Network may be able to share the knowledge that will make this method available to members.
- Final Exit Network is an all volunteer organization-except for a minimum of paid assistance with office, bookkeeping, communications and database services. Other organizations spend millions of members’ dollars each year and some have run deficits of nearly $2 million in a single year. Many have staffs of over 30 people and multiple offices in several cities.
- Final Exit Network invites its members to participate in choosing who will represent them on the board of directors. The Network is the only US right-to-die membership organization with open elections for board members.
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Join our discussion
The Founders of Hemlock and Final Exit Network
Click above to hear an interview by Immendham with Frank Kavanaugh on a Vloggerdome broadcast.
Frontline: The Suicide Plan
Public Television's Frontline takes
a look at the death with dignity movement.
Recent programs featuring discussions of death-with-dignity
PBS: Frontline Special
Death with dignity in the United States
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Some of the diseases that involve lengthy suffering, and meet our MEC criteria:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
Congestive heart failure
Complete history of the Right to Die Movement
in the United States - update 5/2019