Questions & Answers
Q&A concerning your question on death-with-dignity, Final Exit Network, and related topics. [Excerpts, with additions, for the FEN website with permission and credit to Derek Humphry & ERGO]
1. When and where did the modern voluntary euthanasia movement start?
2. When did the movement start to become bigger and more vocal?
3. How many people support voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill?
4. How many physicians support assisted dying?
5. What do the terms used in this FAQ mean?
6. Where does the main opposition to voluntary euthanasia come from?
7. Which churches officially support the principle of assisted dying for the terminally ill?
8. How many copies of Derek Humphry's 1991 best-selling book, "FINAL EXIT: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying" have been sold?
9. Is the Final Exit book banned in any country?
10. Where has assisted dying been made lawful in the world recently?
11. What about the Netherlands, which is famous for its liberal attitudes? And the Belgians?
12. What is the legal position in other countries?
13. How much assisted dying goes on now in America?
14. Are suicide and attempted suicide crimes?
15. What is the Final Exit Network?
16. How can I help to support choice in dying?
Used with permission, excerpts - with additions for the Final Exit Network website.
© 2014 Derek Humphry/ERGO
1. Answer: In 1935 in Britain, in 1938 in the U.S., and in 1980 in Canada. The British and North America groups were very small and insignificant for the next two decades. Derek Humphry is credited with kick-starting the modern euthanasia movement in America in 1980 when he started the Hemlock Society.
2. Answer: After the hugely-publicized Karen Ann Quinlan `right to die' case in New Jersey in 1976 revealed to the public the extent of modern medical technology to extend life indefinitely in a persistent vegetative state. In 1980 Derek Humphry founded the Hemlock Society to campaign for law reform on assisted dying, and give factual advice on how to end life peacefully and non-violently.
3. Answer: Opinion polls show average support of 70 percent in the USA, 74 percent in Canada, and 80 percent in Britain. When actually voting in official ballot measures, the support has been 46 percent in California (1992), 51 percent in Oregon (1994), 60 percent in Oregon (1997), and 59 percent in Washington State (2008).
4. Answer: Numerous opinion polls indicate that half the medical profession would like to see it made law. It also appears that about 15 percent of physicians already practice it on justifiable occasions. The leadership of the professional medical group, the American Medical Association, remains adamantly opposed.
5. Answer: 'Voluntary Euthanasia' (VE) means death by lethal injection; 'Physician Aid in Dying' (PAD) means death by oral ingestion of prescribed lethal drugs.
Passive euthanasia means the disconnection of life-support systems from a hopelessly ill patient.
6. Answer: The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Also churches on the religious right.
7. Answer: The Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Methodist Church on the West coast of America. It appears that the congregations of most churches are divided on the issue.
8. Answer: About 750,000 in the USA and Canada and approximately 500,000 in other major world languages. It consistently sells roughly 1,000 copies a month in North America. In 2010 a revised, 3rd edition was published by Delta paperbacks, New York. Both the updated paperback and updated eBook versions are available via the ERGO Bookstore. The paperback is also obtainable in good bookstores worldwide or from Amazon.com.
9. Answer: The Final Exit book is banned in France. Attempts to ban the book in Australia and New Zealand failed. In Britain, publishers fearing the law do not publish it, but the imported book is freely sold through the book trade there.
10. Answer. In November 1994 the citizens of the state of Oregon voted for Ballot Measure 16 which permits Physician Aid in Dying (PAD) for the terminally ill under limited conditions. Despite opponents' attempts to block it in the courts, and a 1997 ballot initiative attempting to repeal the law, "The Death with Dignity Act" has withstood all challenges and became effective in October 1997. Voters in Washington state approved a similar PAD law in 2008. Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C. are the most recent states/district to pass death-with-dignity laws.
11. Answer. Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide were permitted by the Dutch for some 20 years before it was actually made legal, under strict guidelines, by the Dutch Parliament in 2002. Later the same year the Belgian Parliament approved a similar law. For a complete round-up of the world's laws go to www.assistedsuicide.org
12. Answer. Voluntary euthanasia is lawful in Japan (but apparently rarely practiced because of taboos). PAD has been lawful in Switzerland since 1940. In 2003 Luxembourg approved a law similar to the Dutch and Belgian versions passed in 2002. Albania and Colombia also permit euthanasia on a limited basis.
13. Answer: Nobody really knows because, with assisted suicide a crime, incidents are almost always kept secret to avoid possible prosecution, although this is extremely rare. Derek Humphry estimates that there are probably several thousand cases in the USA each year.
14. Answer: They used to be in Europe. The punishment for suicide was to deprive the family of any inheritance, and imprisonment for attempting suicide. But not any longer, anywhere. It is the `assistance in suicide' which remains the crime (except as noted above) which ERGO and other groups would like to see decriminalized for the terminally and hopelessly ill, provided that a willing physician carries it out under supervision and with accepted guidelines.
15. Answer: This nonprofit organization was founded in 2004 by people who were unhappy at the disappearance of the Hemlock Society (1980-2003). Volunteer 'Exit Guides' from the Final Exit Network are willing -- after member's medical records are checked and approved as valid by the FEN Medical Committee and found that the medical condition meets the criteria set in the Final Exit Network protocols -- to sit with terminal persons as they choose to end their lives because of suffering. Exit Guides are compassionate members of the organization who receive extensive training in the FEN protocols.
The Network does not concern itself with legislation, leaving that to experienced groups like the Death With Dignity National Center and Compassion and Choices.
16. Answer: Running a non-profit organization with worldwide visibility like Final Exit Network and ERGO requires funding and support from people like you.
Final Exit Network is a volunteer group solely supported by membership, donations, and bequests by those who are interested in a peaceful death with dignity today, rather than waiting for laws to change. The Network's services are available to our members in all 50 states at no charge to the member who has applied for exit.
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